You may have seen that we have launched a campaign to raise objections to the Government’s proposed changes to the planning system in England, as set out in the draft National Planning Policy Framework. This was launched for consultation on 25 July, with the consultation due to close on 17 October.
For decades the planning system has guided development to the places that need it. It has protected open countryside, prevented sprawl and safeguarded the historic character of our cities, towns and villages.
But now, through its draft National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF) published in July, the Government wants to change the planning system into a tool to promote economic growth above all else. Let me stress that the National Trust does support the need for economic growth – just not at any cost.
We believe that these changes, which are supposedly in the public interest, come at far too high a price. They put at serious risk so much that we all love and treasure. Here are just two reasons why:
• The removal of much detailed guidance to local authorities leaves too much power in the hands of developers who will only need to show that their proposals will deliver growth for other important considerations (such as the impact on communities, nature and landscape) to be pushed aside.
• Local people will have to rely on local or neighbourhood development plans to protect what they treasure and shape where development should go. Only half of local authorities have such plans in place. Where there are no plans there will be a presumption that development will proceed, unless local people can find the resources and specialist knowledge to prove that it will cause significant harm. In practice, the dice are heavily loaded to favour development.
With these changes comes a huge risk to our countryside, historic environment and the precious local places that are so important for us all. The planning reforms could lead to unchecked and damaging development on a scale not seen since the 1930s.
Time is of the essence - these proposals are being consulted on right now (the deadline is 17 October). We need your help in calling on Government to think again about the wisdom of this approach. Here are some ways you can support the campaign:
• Please sign our petition to the government – and encourage others to do so. You can find the petition online at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/planning or www.planningforpeople.org.uk
• Send a letter to your MP urging them to re-think the planning reforms. You can also find details of how to do this on the website.
• Write to your local newspaper highlighting the issue.
Thank you so much for your support on this pressing issue. Our fear is that the planning system is being weighted too heavily towards the interests of economic growth, and that people and landscapes will suffer as a consequence.