NPPF detractors have no idea of planning reality

This may not be politically correct but it has to be said. The Department for Communities and Local Government's draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) really has brought out the nutters. I am talking about the comments ordinary members of the public make on the websites of serious newspapers in response to articles covering the draft NPPF.

Worst of all are the racists, who proclaim that new housing development would be totally unnecessary if we just sent back all immigrants. On the basis of this, we don't need an NPPF and preserving our green and pleasant land is easy.

Next come the conspiracy theorists. To them, any development is evil and it's all a plot by David Cameron to line the pockets of his rich friends.

Behind this is misinterpretation of actual facts. For instance, since planning permission exists for about 300,000 house plots, there is apparently "no need" for more land to be released for homes.

This ignores the fact that, in the 1950s, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan delivered 300,000 new homes in one year. It also ignores the nature of the development process, which needs a pipeline to ensure steady output.

Similarly, the requirement for five years' supply of deliverable plots has been attacked by critics who assume that this is an innovation to pacify development interests.

On top of all this is a level of vitriol and political hatred usually reserved for arguments about government economic policy and defence cuts.

While you may find these opinions laughable, it is worrying that so many supposedly well-informed people know so little about the planning system. The respondents to NPPF press coverage either believe that the existing system allows everything through or allows nothing through. They are generally united in thinking the framework will allow everything through.

There has clearly been a major communications failure over the years to bring us to this situation. The thousands of pages of government guidance and multiplicity of local authority plans and supplementary planning documents have not provided transparency and understanding. In principle, a 52-page framework is to be welcomed. The same goes for shorter local plans without a plethora of supporting papers and supplementary planning documents.

The framework will not concrete over the entire country in the way some hysterics predict. Nor will it ease things to the extent that some development lobbyists expect. It would no doubt be a surprise to all the people who have commented without reading it, but the document is actually about balancing competing economic, social and environmental considerations.

Kim Penfold, Cheshire.


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