Planning reforms have led to 'sprawl', campaigners claim

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is being used to impose unnecessary greenfield development in the face of local opposition, according to a study by countryside campaigners.

Greenfield land: CPRE says major new housing development is being allowed to sprawl across countryside
Greenfield land: CPRE says major new housing development is being allowed to sprawl across countryside
The report, published today by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), says that the National Planning Policy Framework has led to a loss of local control over planning decisions and more greenfield development.

CPRE says that its findings are based on an analysis of 20 major housing applications determined after the publication of the NPPF in March 2012 and 20 recent local plan examination reports.

According to the report, 20 major housing schemes, including one as large as 2,000 homes, have been allowed, despite being either previously refused by the local planning authority or not being in line with local plans for the area.

CPRE says that the approvals contradict ministers’ commitments, made when launching the NPPF, to "put unprecedented power in the hands of communities to shape the places in which they live".

The plan-led system is being undermined because little weight is being given to emerging plans, the report says. According to the report, in a number of cases, major planning decisions are being "taken out of the hands of local authorities" by developers appealing and the appeal being granted by planning inspectors or ministers.

The report adds that, despite a government commitment to remove "top down" planning by revoking regional spatial strategies, these plans continue to "live on to haunt the countryside as ‘ghost strategies’. As a result, housing requirements imposed on local communities from above are still very much a reality".

The report also says that the requirement to supply five years of deliverable land for new housing is being used to "justify development on greenfield land and to dismiss attempts to develop brownfield sites first".

CPRE chief executive Shaun Spiers said: "When the government introduced its planning reforms last year it promised that the local plan would be the keystone of the planning system, and that the intrinsic value and beauty of the countryside would be recognised.

"Instead, we are seeing that applications for new housing are being approved regardless of their impact on local areas including developments in some of our most treasured countryside such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty."

But a Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "The framework is clear that very strong protections are in place to safeguard the Green Belt and protect other areas, such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and that local plans are at the heart of the planning system.

"There have been more than 2,300 major residential decisions made through the planning system since the introduction of the framework and to focus on just tens of cases and claim they are in some way representative is not credible."

Countryside Promises, Planning Realities is available here.

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