Planning reforms 2016 – write to your MP

Urgent call for your support. Please write to your MP now about changes to national planning policy which the Government is expected to publish in June.

Lenham sunset, photo by Simon Oliver

Lenham sunset, photo by Simon Oliver

Getting the right homes in the right places
We are calling for changes that will ensure the right housing is built in the right places, and prevent unnecessary loss of countryside:

  • Developers should be tasked with building the developments on permissions they already have, before trying to grab more greenfield land.
  • Councils should be empowered to prioritise the use of brownfield sites and restrict competing greenfield development, especially when this would further protect the Green Belt.
  • The Government should abandon proposals to relax Green Belt policy and instead make clearer that unnecessary or major losses of Green Belt should be avoided.
  • Councils should be able to set housebuilding targets that are based on a realistic assessment of what is likely to actually be delivered.

We have prepared a letter which you can send to your local MP. If you have the time to personalise it, it will be even more effective. Go straight to the letter and take action by clicking here.

For a detailed look at Planning reforms 2016: What’s the problem? click here.

Lavender at Castle Farm, Lullingstone, photo by Glen Humble

Lavender at Castle Farm, Lullingstone, photo by Glen Humble

April 27th 2016.

Housing and Planning Bill – some good news

Housing and Planning Bill – Affordable rural homes

Due to the low number of affordable homes and the high cost of property in rural areas, CPRE has been vigorously campaigning to protect affordable housing for those on lower incomes in the countryside.

The Housing and Planning Bill reached report stage in the House of Lords last Monday (11 April). Lords debated amendments concerning affordable rural housing, namely: excluding ‘starter homes’ from rural exception sites; excluding rural areas from the forced sale of council homes; and excluding rural areas from the extension of the right-to-buy from rural areas.

Starter homes

After lengthy discussions and valuable contributions from a number of Lords, including Lord Best and Lord Cameron of Dillington, we are pleased to report that the Government conceded that new approaches are required on both exception sites and council homes in rural areas to protect affordable housing provision in rural areas. The Government will disclose its proposed amendments along these lines at the bill’s Third Reading next week.

The Government’s willingness to negotiate these terms is very welcome, and we look forward to seeing the detail put forward.

Housing and Planning Bill – Neighbourhood right of appeal

CPRE has long campaigned for the Government to introduce a limited neighbourhood right of appeal. This would enable local communities to appeal against approved but speculative planning applications where they conflicted with a made or well-advanced neighbourhood plan.

On Wednesday 20 April Baroness Parminter (Lib Dem) spoke forcefully when proposing that this instrument be introduced to the Housing and Planning Bill. Baroness Parminter argued that an amendment introducing a neighbourhood right of appeal would ensure that it was easier to build consensus in local communities behind the development we need.

Kent aeria photo by Vicky Ellis

Kent aerial photo by Vicky Ellis

Despite the efforts of Government to oppose the amendment, Lords from across the House spoke in support and the amendment was subsequently passed by 251 contents to 194 not-contents. With Civic Voice and the National Association of Local Councils (NALC), we must thank many peers, including Lords Best, Taylor, Kennedy and Marlesford, for their support.

Even though the Government was defeated, the amendment is very likely to be debated and opposed when the Bill goes back to the Commons. As a number of Conservative MPs have supported the right of appeal in the past, including Nick Herbert and Sir Oliver Heald QC, we look forward to the next parliamentary discussions on this matter.

April 25th 2016

Concern over planning reforms

The Government this week (Monday 7th December) published a consultation proposing a raft of new changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

We welcome the presumption in favour of brownfield housing development  which would make it clear that development proposals for housing on brownfield sites should be supported, unless overriding conflicts with the local plan or the National Planning Policy Framework can be demonstrated and cannot be mitigated.

However we are very concerned about some of the other proposals.

In particular, a new ‘housing delivery test’ (paras 27-33) will likely lead to more green fields being released for development as councils either plan for more development in advance or have to find new sites to develop when existing targets are not met. We believe that the ‘delivery test’ in its proposed form will allow developers to cherry pick greenfield sites instead, letting the brownfield sites go to waste.

Lullingstone, photo by Susan Pittman

Lullingstone, photo by Susan Pittman

The proposal to encourage new settlements (para 19/20) is also concerning – the area required for entirely new settlements is far greater than that required for just the housing. Councils are already encouraged in the current NPPF to bring forward new settlements. The proposed new policies could serve to force local people to accept large speculative schemes in unsuitable places that had been previously rejected in recent local consultations.

The idea of more quickly bringing forward development on brownfield sites in the Green Belt was trailed in the Spending Review. We believe each case must be considered carefully as brownfield in the Green Belt often contains valuable open land and open parkland that should not be developed. Paragraph 49, meanwhile, suggests that councils will be able to designate parts of the Green Belt for small developments of ‘starter homes’, entertaining the possibility of urban sprawl and drawing focus away from brownfield sites that have connections to existing infrastructure and amenities.

CPRE will be submitting a response to the consultation, the submission date for which is the 25 January 2016.

Paul Miner, planning campaign manager at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said:

“This consultation is really concerning. Instead of addressing the current difficulties in bringing forward the right sites for the right homes, it proposes to release yet more land for development, often in the countryside and possibly in the Green Belt.

“The current policy isn’t working, but these proposals will make things worse. Releasing unlimited amounts of greenfield land will not deliver the Government’s welcome pledges to regenerate brownfield sites.”

December 9th 2015

Continue reading

Council U-turn Criticised

A recommendation to approve plans for a business park at Waterside Park by Junction 8 of the M20 has astounded CPRE Kent as it is a complete U-turn on the part of Maidstone Borough Council.

We believe the planned development of warehouses, industrial premises and offices would be detrimental to the countryside setting of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the important heritage setting of Leeds Castle.

The council refused similar plans in February but now appears to have caved in after the developers made minor adjustments. The proposal, involving 16 hectares (39 acres) of prime agricultural land, is not identified for development in either the existing or proposed new Local Plan and breaches important national planning policies that seek to protect the countryside.

The officers’ report recommending approval will go to Maidstone’s Planning Committee on Thursday (16th October).  Although the planners still admit that “the development would cause significant harm to the countryside and setting of the AONB”, they consider that this harm is outweighed by the economic benefits.

CPRE Kent is just one of many organisations opposed to the scheme – there are also objections from Kent County Council, Natural England, the Kent Downs AONB Unit, the Kent Wildlife Trust, Leeds Castle, the Joint Parishes Group and many local people.

“We are amazed at this about turn,” said Brian Lloyd, Senior Planner for CPRE Kent. “This is greenfield land in the open countryside where development should not be allowed under both local and national planning policies.  We would seriously question the claimed economic benefits to Maidstone as it will just as likely attract employees from Ashford and other parts of the county with its proximity to the motorway.  There is no justification for developing in this location when considerable employment land has already been identified in area such as Ashford, Swale and Canterbury which would not impact on an AONB and one of the county’s prime heritage and tourist sites.”

We are calling on council members to stick to their original decision and adhere to their own Development Plan and national planning policy and refuse the plans.

#WasteOfSpace Campaign

Have you spotted abandoned buildings and derelict sites in your area which could be used for housing development? The CPRE is calling on people to identify disused brownfield sites in order to save greenfield sites and help protect our countryside.

The #WasteOfSpace campaign is running until January 2015. Please join in by nominating a local brownfield site, for example an empty shop or abandoned factory. These will be added to an interactive map online which will help politicians and developers to identify sites and also raise awareness of the brownfield/greenfield debate.

“If more disused brownfield sites and empty buildings were re-developed, it would save greenfield sites and protect the countryside. Not only that but it would make our towns more vibrant and help get rid of eyesores and derelict buildings,” said CPRE Kent Director Dr Hilary Newport.

Folkestone waste of space

Abandoned building in Folkestone

So far three sites in Kent are on the map – the derelict building next to Grace Chapel in Folkestone; disused land in Island Road at Canterbury; and space in Rochester next to the bridge over the Medway. But we know hundreds more exist.

A CPRE report earlier this year found that the Government’s planning reforms are unnecessarily damaging the countryside and failing to prioritise the re-use of brownfield land and regeneration of urban areas.

“Brownfield developments can be costly because of de-contamination and complications over ownership, but these are all matters that could and should be overcome,” said Dr Newport. “They won’t be, though, if we continue to promote so-called easy to develop greenfield sites.”

To nominate a brownfield site and add it to CPRE’s ‘WasteOfSpace’ map of England, please send an image of the site (as simple as a quick snap on a smartphone) and an address of the site – either a postcode or rough street address. Send the image by:

emailing wasteofspace@cpre.org.uk
tweeting @CPRE with the hashtag #WasteOfSpace
posting to the Facebook group #WasteOfSpace

To view the map: http://www.cpre.org.uk/how-you-can-help/take-action/waste-of-space