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Planning is vital to provide homes in the right places

Peter Raynes
By Peter Raynes
9th April 2018

Our Charity’s work since 1923 to create National Parks and Green belts has ensured millions have easy access to beautiful open countryside.

As members we are well aware of the continued campaigning needed to protect these successes particularly at a time when the shortage of housing for young people is a key political and social priority.

Before thinking that these goals are inevitably in conflict it is worth remembering that the CPRE was founded by people who thought the opposite. They believed that through good planning we would provide well-designed houses in settlements with clear boundaries and surrounded by accessible countryside.

Middlewich – canalside development on brownfield land


The foundation of the CPRE coincided with the introduction of cars and the road network. This had for the first time allowed development of isolated housing estates on cheaper land scattered across the countryside.

The parallel with developments we are now seeing in Cheshire could not be clearer. By removing the authority of the planning system developers are again building remote estates in open countryside far from schools, utilities and shops and which can only be accessed by car. This has not solved the housing shortage. After allowing for an unrelated recovery after the financial crisis house building has not significantly increased.

  • If undermining the planning system has achieved nothing, what happened when the system was introduced? The key dates for these reforms were:
    1947 Town and Country Planning Act 1949 National Parks Act
  • 1938-1955 Adoption of Green Belts around our major and historic cities

If the rhetoric of the building lobby were to be believed we should have seen house building collapse, but the real result was the opposite: an increase from 170,000 a year at the beginning of the 50’s to over 350,000 a year in the mid 1970’s.

While other factors, such as large scale public housing projects explain much of the expansion during this period, there is no evidence the new planning rules restricted the delivery of new houses and they did preserve much of the beauty of our Countryside.

In the 21st century we are faced with even more reason to plan carefully. Well planned towns and villages are one of the few ways we can enhance our quality of life and reduce the carbon emissions.

Our Campaign has never been more important, if we are unable to return to a system of planned and effective development we will have passed yet another environmental problem on to future generations.

A man walking alone on a sunny day
Enjoying a walk among beautiful landscapes iStock