THE AIM of the Government’s new planning policy, as is explained in its draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), is to impose ‘a presumption in favour of sustainable development’.
In future, local authorities will be required by Government diktat ‘to approve all individual proposals wherever possible’.
To make it easier for developers, the Government wishes to abolish existing Statutory Policies and Regulations that protect the natural environment, with which developers must comply.
Compliance with these policies does not preclude development outside of designated protected areas but requires developers to include in their plans appropriate mitigation measures to obviate or minimise any negative effects.
The Government intends to replace these essential policies with the general and ambiguously worded principles of the NPPF that will provide little or no protection to countryside outside of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), designated ‘Green Belt’ and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Countryside outside of these protected areas will therefore be vulnerable to unsympathetic development (note that Sussex does NOT have any designated ‘Green Belt’).
To justify these draconian measures, the Government is claiming that the present planning system is responsible for both the recession and the relatively small number of houses, including ‘affordable homes’, now being built.
This is patently not true. Lack of mortgage supply, uncertain employment prospects and the general economic incertitude in consequence of the recession are responsible for the reduction in the number of houses built, NOT the planning system and NOT planning policies.
Significantly, the Government’s proposed new planning policy does NOT include a clearly expressed requirement for developers to fund and provide a specified proportion of ‘affordable homes’ in their developments.
Indeed, draft NPPF paragraph 39 seeks to limit contributions paid by developers not only for ‘affordable housing’, but also for ‘infrastructure’ requirements. Development cannot be ‘sustainable’ without adequate infrastructure and providing affordable homes should be a priority.
In consequence of the NPPF, communities will only be permitted to say ‘yes’, not ‘no’ to development. Having housing allocations reduced will not be an option. This is a most fundamental issue and makes nonsense of the Government’s claim that ‘local communities... will shortly have an opportunity to play an unprecedented role in shaping their future’.
In districts where local plans are deemed to be out of date (presumably by the Government through the Planning Inspectorate), developers will decide where and how many houses are to be built, NOT local authorities, NOT local communities. How many districts in Sussex have up-to-date local plans?
If Horsham MP, Francis Maude, and his colleagues were truly committed to empowering communities they would heed criticism, withdraw and rewrite the National Planning Policy Framework, incorporate and enable the principles expressed in the White Paper, ‘The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature’ and restore the essential protections provided by existing Planning Policies.
Communities should be permitted to decide for themselves the scale and character of development in their areas – NOT developers.
Dr R.F. SMITH
Bashurst Copse, Itchingfield