19 Oct 2011

Stroud Greens condemn Government's proposed planning policy

Ruscombe fields: threatened by developers - photo Mike Gallagher  
I have covered some of the campaigns against the changes to the planning laws - see for example a few days ago here. The National Trust petition is now closed but you can still lobby your MP - see here. Greens locally have issued a press release today - you can read it below.

Stroud District Green Party has raised serious concerns about the controversial government planning policy, the draft National Planning Framework (NPF). In essence the Green Party believes that, in principle and in approach, the framework is a thinly-veiled gift to developers, which paves the way for damaging developments while professing to boost "sustainability".

“Developers already enjoy huge advantage during the planning process and the government has entirely failed to improve this condition - in fact horrifyingly this framework is quite the opposite: communities and local councils will have less, not more, control over what gets built in their area,” said Cllr Philip Booth (Ruscombe).

“We need more homes - already Stroud has a waiting list of over 3,000 - but this is not the way to do it; these planning changes are bad news and will lead to seriously poor and unsustainable developments in Stroud and the rest of the country,” Philip continued.

His colleague Cllr Martin Whiteside (Thrupp) agreed, adding, “We need more affordable homes and local jobs, and we as local communities should decide where these are built, rather than handing over the right to speculate and profit from our heritage to the Tory Party's developer friends and their bankers.”

Meanwhile Cllr Simon Pickering (Slade) described the framework as "a deceitful bill apparently offering a simple system and giving power to local people but in reality changing little, and most importantly doing nothing to switch to a truly sustainable green economy or promote real living communities"

The draft NPPF bluntly states that “development means growth”. Soon after, the document asserts with no argument or evidence that “without growth, a sustainable future cannot be achieved”. The Green Party believes that such circularity means that all development becomes sustainable, and as the presumption makes clear, all so-called sustainable development must be approved.

The Green Party has enormous concerns regarding the power and influence of powerful lobbyists for the building industry who are routinely putting profit before people. David Cameron himself described lobbying as "the next big scandal waiting to happen" in a speech last year and yet is allowing developers free rein in the disastrous NPF.

The NPF in its current format is at odds with the idea of sustainable development and as such The Green Party cannot support it.

Click read more to see the Green MEP's press release. The UK’s Green MEPs, Keith Taylor and Jean Lambert, have today (14th Oct) accused the government of showing blatant disregard for the UK’s obligations to meet legally binding EU targets on air quality and renewable energy in their proposed National Planning Policy Framework.

The proposed framework removes the ‘brownfield development first’ policy, taking away the national priority for previously developed land to be developed before greenfield sites are built on. It also removes the ‘town centre first’ policy for new office developments and weakens the rules for leisure and retail developments. This shift to development outside town centres will create a need for more travel, increasing already dangerously high levels of air pollution. The UK government is currently failing to meet both PM10 and nitrogen dioxide limit values set by the EU in its legislation on air quality (1).

Investment in renewable energy is also threatened by the proposed National Planning Policy Framework, which fails to include renewable energy requirements. These measures are currently contained in the Regional Spatial Strategies and regional targets, which are due to be abolished. With a reduction in the number of renewable energy projects coming forward the ability of the UK government to achieve their legally binding 15% renewable energy target by 2020 will be called into question.

In their submission to the government’s consultation on the National Planning Policy Framework both MEPs criticise the framework for placing a presumption in favour of development above other considerations, its inadequate definition of ‘sustainable development’ and the lack of opportunity for democratic public engagement in planning proposals.

Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South East England said: “Allowing developers free reign will threaten the government’s ability to meet crucial targets set by the EU to protect citizens’ health and to reduce climate emissions. The UK already has some of the most polluted air in Europe. Encouraging more out of town offices, retail parks and leisure developments is only going to make the situation worse. When the UK faces fines of hundreds of millions of pounds the government should be thinking very seriously about how better planning could help tackle this growing public health crisis.“

Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London said: "If adopted, the Government's proposed planning framework will be a developers' charter and nothing more. The presumption in favour of development, which is its driving force, will undermine environmental, carbon reduction and green transport objectives and restrict the voice of local people in decision-making. The UK's EU targets on renewables, air pollution and carbon reduction are all set to suffer as a result. Government claims that this is a framework for sustainable development would be laughable if the consequences were not so serious."

Notes to Editors

1. Directive on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe (2008/50/EC)

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