Protecting the countryside through better planning
CPRE ensured the countryside didn’t become a developers paradise© WDG Photo/Shutterstock
CPRE’s work in 2011/12 has been dominated by our campaign against the Government’s attempts to weaken protection for the environment enshrined in the planning system – one of the most significant threats to the countryside we have seen in decades. CPRE President Sir Andrew Motion joins CPRE staff in describing how the battle was won.
We know what sort of England we would have today in the absence of CPRE and planning – the US, which has a population only six times greater than ours, loses an area of land one hundred times greater to developers each year. Once gone, gone forever. Planning forces us to show discipline in our use of land; something which is essential in our small and densely populated country. It is more costly and requires more imagination to regenerate derelict urban sites, but this policy can help the economy while reducing the pressure to develop our precious Green Belts. Over the last 12 months, much of our work has revolved around the defence of a planning system which protects our most valued countryside and ensures that development benefits the communities as well as the economy.
Chairman, Campaign to Protect Rural England
Thanks to CPRE’s campaign, proposals which would have left over half of rural England at the mercy of developers were strengthened to respect plans agreed by local people, while encouraging the resuse of derelict sites, protection of tranquil areas and reduction of light pollution. Crucially, the final National Planning Policy Framework also recognised the intrinsic character and beauty of all countryside.
Sir Andrew Motion
President, Campaign to Protect Rural England
Helping people become campaigners
‘CPRE mobilised our online activists to send over 17,300 emails protesting the weakening of the planning system. This included 3,016 letters to newspapers, 9,082 letters to MPs, and 5,234 responses to the Government’s consultation – over half the total received.’
Senior Campaigns Communicator
‘In Westminster, CPRE cemented our reputation as the leading NGO on planning, being mentioned 87 times in Parliament during the debates on the reform of the planning. We worked with Zac Goldsmith MP to co-ordinate a letter signed by 45 coalition MPs urging the Government to retain protections for the wider countryside, and provided maps to 150 MPs showing the countryside at risk in their constituencies. We made our case at two select committee inquiries and four meetings of the All Party Group on Housing and Planning, personally briefing another 37 MPs and 16 Peers.’
Senior Parliamentary Officer
Adding weight to our case
‘We published research showing that the Government’s planning reforms would not generate economic growth but could undermine the public wellbeing created by good planning. A Legal Opinion obtained from John Hobson QC, our Honorary Standing Counsel, supported our arguments that the reforms would weaken protection for countryside, and hamper economic growth by increasing in costly planning appeals. We campaigned hard against the Government’s removal of the ‘brownfield first’ policy – introduced after CPRE campaigning – from their draft planning framework. Our research showed that there is an increasing supply of brownfield (derelict) land suitable for development, and that since 1995, previously developed sites absorbed new housing which could have covered an area of countryside seen times the size of Southampton. This helped to ensure the final framework included guidance encouraging the re-use of brownfield land ‘
Director of Policy and Campaigns
Building our media profile
‘During the campaign, CPRE were the leading voice in 30 front page national newspaper articles, 24 letters to editors, 30 editorials and 92 national broadcast reports.’
Senior Press Officer
‘The Government’s draft National Planning Policy Framework triggered widespread concern, with its emphasis on development at any cost. It is thanks to great organisations like the CPRE and the National Trust that the public were motivated to lobby their MPs and the Government for change. The effect can be meansured in the revised draft, which absolutely took on board those organisations’ concerns.’
Zac Goldsmith MP
‘CPRE is very frequently an almighty nuisance, and this is absolutely as it should be. It’s absolutely necessary to have a group of people who are utterly devoted to the protection of rural England.’
Rt Hon Oliver Letwin MP
Minister for Government Policy
Planning forces us to show discipline in our use of land; something which is essential in our small and densely populated country.
Gatwick: Number of new homes spiralling
Friday, 23 August 2019 14:07
Letter published by the West Sussex County Times 8 August 2019
Gatwick “Airport plans will mean 20,000 jobs” (WSCT July 25) – and a substantial increase in the number of houses that will be needed to accommodate the hugely expanded workforce.
Horsham District Council (HDC) is currently preparing its new local development plan, for the period 2021 to 2036.
To determine the house-building target for the plan, the council has first to assess the district’s ‘minimum annual local housing need’ by means of the Government’s hocus pocus formula-based ‘standard method’. The resultant number is 974 houses pa, which over 15 years (2021 to 2036) will amount to 14,610 houses.
However, Government diktat stipulates that “there will be circumstances where it is appropriate (for councils) to consider whether actual housing need is higher than the standard method indicates”.
Gatwick’s proposed expansion, if permitted and the consequent prospect of 20,000 new jobs would require HDC to consider whether the district’s actual housing need is higher than the 974 house pa indicated by the standard method.
Should the additional need be, say, 250 houses pa in consequence of Gatwick, this would amount to an extra 3750 houses over the 15 years to 2036, therefore 18,360 (3,750 + 14,610) houses in total.
In addition, HDC is required by the Government-imposed ‘Duty to Cooperate’ to assist councils that do not have capacity to accommodate all of their ‘assessed’ housing need by accepting a proportion of their ‘unmet need’.
HDC might therefore be required to meet not only, as now, the unmet need of Crawley, but also the ‘unmet’ needs of other councils, too, perhaps Adur, Brighton and Hove and Chichester.
A requirement to accept from these councils, say 300 pa, would result in 4,500 houses being added to the district’s overall target, therefore 22,860 in total, therefore 1,524 pa.
Doubtless, developers will seek to persuade the examining Planning Inspector that the target should be much much higher by playing the Gatwick card.
Dr R F Smith
Trustee CPRE Sussex