Planning changes 'causing frustration and anger at the local level'

The government's changes to the planning system are forcing local authorities across the country to accept major developments against their will, countryside lobby group the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has said.

Report says NPPF is 'unnecessarily damaging the countryside'
Report says NPPF is 'unnecessarily damaging the countryside'

In a report on the impact of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) on the countryside, CPRE said the changes are "unnecessarily damaging the countryside" and undermining local democracy.

The report, Community Control or Countryside Chaos?, said planning for housing was causing most concern and that NPPF policy on how local authorities should demonstrate a five-year supply of housing sites "have not been sufficiently clear".

"This is causing frustration and anger at the local level and not delivering the government’s aspirations for ‘localism’," it said.

"This is largely because pressure from developers, legal action, and/or decisions by planning inspectors are restricting how local authorities can demonstrate land available for housing."

The report said in the past year at least 39 out of 58 major housing developments had been granted at appeal by the secretary of state or inspectors.

It said the threat of appeal meant local authorities have felt they have had "no choice but to grant applications for major development".

CPRE said the rate at which local plans are being adopted has slowed, which has meant councils are "powerless to decide what land should be developed in the best interests of local communities".

It said that 34 per cent of local authorities are unlikely to have an up-to-date, finalised local plan in place before the general election.

CPRE chief executive Shaun Spiers said councils are under pressure to disregard local democracy to meet top-down targets, and called on the government to rethink its planning policies.

He said: "Local authorities are having to agree fanciful housing numbers and allocate huge areas of greenfield land to meet them. Where they lack an up to date plan, the countryside is up for grabs and many villages feel under siege from developers.

"But tragically the result is not more housing, and certainly not more affordable housing – just more aggro and less green space.’

CPRE called on the government to amend the NPPF so that there is not an automatic presumption in favour of granting planning permission where the local authority is unable to demonstrate a five-year land supply.

It should also put a greater burden of proof on developers to show, when applying for planning permission, that proposed schemes are socially and environmentally sustainable, CPRE said.

Other recommendations include:

  • Amend the NPPF to stress that brownfield land should be developed before greenfield.

  • Revise footnote 11 of the NPPF so that land that already has planning permission is clearly considered as being part of the five year land supply.

  • Drop the requirement in the NPPF to allocate an additional 20 per cent ‘buffer’ of ‘deliverable’ housing sites.

  • Issue further guidance on the NPPF stating that development in and around villages should be properly considered through either the local plan or neighbourhood planning process.

  • Give greater scope for planning applications to be refused on grounds of ‘prematurity’, in order to allow suitable time and space for local authorities and neighbourhoods to develop robust plans for the future of their area.

But planning minister Nick Boles has labelled the report "inaccurate, exaggerated and based on a spurious analysis of the facts".

He said the number of planning appeals both received and allowed has fallen, and green belt development is at its lowest rate for more than 20 years.

He added: "We have given councils the power to shape where the new homes our country needs should and shouldn’t go. The majority of councils have a local plan in place, and local residents should hold slow-coach councils to account where they do not.

"For the first time communities have real statutory power to shape local development through neighbourhood plans, which are being approved by local referendums. So far 9 out of 9 plans have won local support in this way, and over 1,000 local communities are now working on their own plan."

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