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Sunday, 4 September 2011

Green Groups Urge Planning Reform Rethink

Conservationists and green campaigners urged ministers today to rethink planning reforms which they warned would see "damaging, free-for-all" developments spread.

The call came as Planning Minister Greg Clark said that he was willing to meet the National Trust and others over fears of a "development free-for-all" under the new National Planning Policy framework.

Chief among the minister's controversial shake-ups is a "presumption in favour of sustainable development at the heart of the planning system.

"Local planning authorities should plan positively for new development and approve all individual proposals wherever possible," it said.

But environmental and heritage groups have criticised the proposals, saying the presumption would undermine the government's own creed of "localism" and make major projects - such as incinerators and factory farms - all but impossible to refuse.

Mr Clark said today he was happy to discuss the "wording" of the policy, but ruled out any U-turn. His critics had "the wrong end of the stick" - sustainability meant the developers had taken into account their effect on the community and environment, he said.

"The consequences would be to continue the position we are in where we are not building enough homes for the people needing them for the first time. We are contributing to homelessness, to overcrowding, to poverty."

But Friends of the Earth campaigns director Craig Bennett was unmoved. The proposals still threatened the countryside while doing little to curb climate change or carbon emissions, he said.

"It's essential that we develop the UK's huge green energy potential and build more fuel efficient and affordable homes.

"Ministers must think again or risk having another fiasco like the outcry over forests on their hands," he said.

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