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Policy could change shape of the English countryside forever




We think of town and country planning as being something that has been around forever. In fact planning was something only for towns and cities until 1932, when after years of lobbying by the CPRE, the government of the day passed the Town and Country Planning Act. Prior to this, new housing and industrial development in the countryside was something of a ‘free for all’. From 1932 County Councils were given powers to control development in the countryside.

After decades of evolution in planning law, it is now district councils that are responsible for determining most planning applications in both urban and rural areas. They work within a framework of national policy and guidance, local and neighbourhood development plans and legal case law.

The government is currently reviewing an important piece of policy that could change the shape of the English countryside forever. It is rewriting the National Planning Policy Framework – the rules that determine what kind of houses are built, where they go, and whether it is communities or developers who are at the heart of those decisions. The public consultation period for this review, which could well change all our ability to challenge future planning applications ends this week.

The outcome will have a huge impact on issues such as safeguarding protected landscapes, the provision of rural affordable housing and guaranteeing that local communities’ voices are heard on developments in their area. The thrust of the proposals are to change planning to deliver the 300,000 new homes each year the Government say we need.

The current proposals, however, just continue successive government’s failed approach to housing that have done nothing to help people afford new homes. As it stands, people still won’t get the affordable homes they need, while more countryside will be lost unnecessarily - permanently. We need to solve the housing crisis and protect our countryside, but eroding our hard won planning controls isn’t the way to do it.

We know we need more homes, but we also know that we need the right homes, homes that local people can afford, in the right places. The Governments’ push for new homes almost without regard for what is built, where and at what price is, we think, plain daft.

CPRE’s shopping list for the NPPF review is:

* Deliver the homes the nation needs rather than just follow market demand - focusing on increasing affordable housing provision and reforming the viability system which is currently stacked in developers’ favour.

* Maintain Green Belt policy and the protection of our National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

* A brownfield-first policy - prioritising the construction of over a million homes on sites already identified as suitable for housing development rather than building on farm land.

* Empower communities to manage the type and scale of development in their areas.

* Establish an understanding of what genuine sustainable development means and make sure that developments are permitted, and restricted, on this basis.



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