More than third of county at risk from developers

NEW MAPS drawn up by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) reveal 35 per cent of West Sussex could be at increased risk from development due to government reform.

The green campaign group launched a report with detailed maps last week showing possible danger to 55 per cent of England’s countryside - almost three and a half times the size of Wales - due to the draft National Planning Policy Framework.

Excluding areas with nationally recognised designations, such as National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), as well as Green Belt, the CPRE found the majority of England’s countryside could be at increased risk of development and urban sprawl.

For decades English planning policy has recognised the intrinsic value of the wider countryside, including undesignated areas.

The draft framework, due to be finalised soon, omits such a policy, the CPRE said.

Fiona Howie, head of planning at CPRE, said: “We are pleased the government’s planning reforms will retain protections for specially designated countryside.

“But ministers have provided no reassurance that the final NPPF will recognise the value of the wider, undesignated countryside that makes up more than half of England’s rural landscape.

“We are not seeking a national policy that would prevent all development.

“But if we are to avoid damaging the character of rural areas by making it easier for inappropriate, speculative building to take place – a bungalow here, a distribution shed there - decision makers must be encouraged to take account of the intrinsic value of the wider countryside when considering development proposals.

“The imminent changes to the planning system should ensure it is not only the specially designated areas that are valued.

“If ministers value the English countryside as a whole this should be reflected in the new national planning policies.

“It would be risky to rely solely on any local protection for the wider countryside, the status of which is extremely uncertain.

“Without national support, any protection local plans give to the wider countryside is likely to be challenged by developers.

“It’s important the government gets this policy right first time round to avoid unnecessary damage to the countryside as the planning reforms are implemented on the ground.”