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New Planning Disaster campaign launched

24 January 2007
A new campaign was launched today at www.planningdisaster.co.uk in response to concerns that proposed changes to the planning system will reduce public involvement in decisions about the development of their communities. The campaign, launched by a coalition of the UK's leading environmental and social organisations is calling on members of the public to email the Chancellor, Gordon Brown MP, to highlight their concerns.

The coalition of organisations including the Campaign to Protect Rural England, The Civic Trust, Friends of the Earth, The Ramblers Association, RSPB, Transport 2000, The Wildlife Trusts and the Woodland Trust are calling on the Chancellor to protect people`s rights in the planning system.

The Chancellor has recently presided over the publication of two major reports - The Barker Review, and the Eddington Study on Transport - which put forward a series of planning reform proposals including changes to the way major infrastructure projects such as motorways and power plants are decided, and a presumption in favour of development.

The Government has already committed to a new White Paper on planning in spring this year that will take forward the Barker Review and Eddington Study recommendations.

Key concerns:

 

  • The reduction of public involvement in inquiries in order to speed up major projects
  • Increased domination of supermarkets in town centres at the expense of local shops
  • The reduction of people`s right to have a say in planning proposals in their area
  • That wildlife, habitats and green belts will be under threat from development

The coalition believes that the Chancellor should instead:

 

 

  • Ensure major projects such as roads or nuclear power stations are decided with local input, democratic accountability, and in the framework of sustainable development
  • Support local shops and town centres by retaining and strengthening the needs assessment requirement
  • Ensure sustainable development principles guide development so that wildlife, habitats and greenbelt are protected, regeneration is encouraged and town centres remain vibrant
  • Safeguard people`s right to have a say in local plans by retaining and strengthening the issues and options discussion at the beginning of local plans, and funding greater positive participation in planning.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England`s Head of Planning, Marina Pacheco, said: "The English countryside will be much more open to development if the Barker review is implemented. We must not allow economics to be the main driver of how England will develop. Environmental sustainability and quality of life should be given equal consideration."

 

The Civic Trust's Hannah Mummery said: "If implemented, proposals to remove the "Needs test", as part of the planning process for retail development would lead to the domination of supermarkets at the expense of local shops and could put the clock back to the days of unsustainable out-of-town developments. We believe that this proposed reform could undo the achievements of the 'town centre first' policy and would prove to be a huge blow to the viability of local shopping."

Friends of the Earth's Planning Advisor, Hugh Ellis, said: "Local people and communities will lose out if the recommendations are implemented. The Government must ensure that people have a say on the future of their communities and their environment as part of a robust land-use planning system."

The Ramblers Association`s Countryside Campaign Manager, Patrick Grady, said: "What government and big businesses see as red tape and bureaucracy, we see as vital local democracy and participation. Government must protect, not reduce, greenbelt and open spaces if people are to get the health and wellbeing benefits associated with the outdoors."

Transport 2000`s Transport Round-table Coordinator, Denise Carlo, said: "The effect of the Barker and Eddington proposals would be to create a separate planning system for major infrastructure projects, such as new airport runways and motorways, in parallel to the existing well-established and respected planning system. It would bypass local democratic accountability and local communities and would in our view be anti-democratic."

The Woodland Trust's Head of Campaigns, Ed Pomfret said: "Proposals for speeding up major infrastructure projects and introducing a stronger presumption in favour of development is an act of folly. The Government needs to recognise that in the face of threats like climate change, environmental protection is ever more important. Reducing local community involvement and cutting back protection of habitats such as ancient woodland in the wider countryside is the opposite of what we should be doing. The Woodland Trust is currently dealing with over 390 cases of ancient woods under threat and these plans will only increase the number of cases we have to fight."

The Wildlife Trust's head of rebuilding biodiversity, John Everitt, said: "Harmful development which fragments wildlife sites must become a thing of the past. Climate-proofing the way we use land is becoming essential. Local planning authorities should adopt policies which give species and habitats a fighting chance of adapting to climate change. This means promoting large areas of green space which can allow the movement of wildlife in response to changes in the future climate. After the last ice age wildlife didn`t have to contend with the M4 corridor or huge urban areas as it sought to adapt."

 

Notes to editors

Kate Barker began her review of England`s land use planning system in January 2006. The final report was published in December 2006.

Sir Rod Eddington was jointly commissioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Transport to examine the long-term links between transport and the UK`s economic productivity, growth and stability. The study was published in December 2006.