Chairman, The National Trust[Back to list]
What’s wrong with the National Planning Policy Framework? The planning reforms at stake are ill-conceived and they’ve come about as a consequence of serious lobbying by developer interests. They are a denial of planning in its traditional sense.
You can’t abandon planning in favour of just giving planning permission. The presumption in favour of sustainable development is particularly ill-defined – it gives a green light to all sorts of developments that would not otherwise be given the go-ahead.
We’ve tried to be a helpful voice in the debates, while at the same time using all our influence to present a clear challenge to the proposals as they stand. This is not always an easy balance to make. It’s hard to tell where things stand exactly at present, now the consultation has closed. If a poor version of the NPPF is the end result, we are prepared to make a large public noise again.
At present, the draft NPPF just doesn’t meet its own criteria. It doesn’t ensure localism, and it won’t promote growth – and these two objec- tives might in some ways be antithetical. We need to re-establish the sovereignty of the plan, to ensure sensible decisions are made about the future of the country.
Beautiful and ugly are words going out of fashion – we should be open about the need to protect things on aesthetic grounds as well as simply because they are old. Listing the coun- tryside would be one possible option, using the evidence we have about the character of the nation’s landscapes. Then we would know more clearly which bits of the countryside would tolerate development.
We need to keep up the pressure on the NPPF. We’ll need an effective transition to the new regime, and also we’ll need to mobilise voices to ensure that local plans are influenced at the local level. We need to concentrate on helping councils and communities to understand and value heritage – it’s not all about what we say to central Government.
The National Trust.