Radical changes to planning laws proposed by the government are a charter for developers. A “presumption in favour of sustainable development” will replace the strict limits on building in rural areas and the green belt that have been in place since the 1940s. This will make it easier for developers to build.
The framework will degrade the protection currently afforded to listed buildings, historic sites, national monuments and gardens. Councils would be required to publish details of land available for development. Consultations on the draft national planning framework are due to end on 17 October and a government decision is expected at the end of the year. If these plans go ahead it is expected that there will be more applications for planning permission and that the approval rate will increase.
At the same time, The Daily Telegraph has revealed close links between the Conservative Party and developers: namely, that the Conservative Party has accepted millions of pounds in donations from property developers in recent years; that representatives of the housebuilding industry helped draft the wording of the government’s consultation document; and that a special club has been set up to allow developers to buy time to meet with ministers and senior Tories.
Many influential organisations fear it will lead to unrestrained building in the countryside, particularly in protected areas. The framework will reduce thousands of pages of planning rules to fewer than 60 and more power over planning applications will be given to local bodies with more economically-led planning prescriptions.
Ministers argue that more housing is necessary to prevent growing homelessness and overcrowding, while ignoring the cause and succumbing to pressure from house-building firms, which want access to the far more lucrative rural areas. Less profitable “brownfield” sites are not being considered as a possible strategic direction even though many sites are still available for housing.
Organisations such as the National Trust, English Heritage and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England have voiced their fears, calling for a delay and a longer period of proper consultation to ensure there is protection for the green belt. ■