The Government’s Localism Bill promised to rebalance the system in favour of local communities and Ministers seemed genuinely committed to the role of planning in protecting the environment. Now the mood has changed.
As the Government’s agenda unfolds, it is clear the planning system is under attack. We urgently need your help to fight back.
Last week, we were alarmed to see a leaked Government document which shows that crucial national planning policies are being watered down so that the default answer to development is ‘yes’. This follows amendments to the Localism Bill which mean planning decisions could be influenced by financial considerations, rather than long term environmental objectives. If these proposals are carried through local communities and planning authorities would be largely powerless in the face of development pressure. This could put huge swathes of our countryside up for grabs.
It started with the Chancellor’s Budget Statement in March where planning was described as an ‘obstacle to economic growth’. Of course we all want to see economic recovery but this need not be at the expense of the countryside – or sensible planning. We can have the development we need and protect the countryside for future generations but we need a robust and effective planning system to achieve that.
All of us who care about the countryside – as well as the vitality of our towns and cities – need to stand up for what we value. With the economy in the doldrums, the threat may not seem particularly urgent. But, unless we act now, when we emerge from the recession there will be uproar across the country as local communities discover that the planning system and its ability to shape development, protect the countryside and promote urban regeneration has been undermined by the reforms currently being pushed through.
We are gearing up for a major campaign to make the Government think again. We have been working hard behind the scenes to shape emerging legislation, but progress is slow and time is running out. We need to step up our efforts if we are to make a real difference. This will not be an easy campaign to win but with your support we still stand a chance.
Take action - write to your MP
As a start, please write to your local MP now to ask him or her to write to the relevant Minister, Greg Clark MP, and urge him to:
- stand up for the countryside and the integrity of the planning system;
- ensure the countryside as a whole, not just our best landscapes, is protected from damaging development in national planning policies; and
- give local planning authorities the ability to require new development to reuse previously developed land before building on greenfield sites.