Simplification of planning is welcomed
27 July 2011
A "simpler and more robust" framework for planning that is said to support sustainable growth while including "powerful protections for the environment" has been published for consultation.
The argument went that over the years the "thicket" of national planning policy had become so large and complex that it was inaccessible to all but specialists. The idea is that the existing 1,000 pages of policy will be cut to just 52 pages.
Councils will now have to work closely with communities and businesses and "actively seek opportunities" for sustainable growth to rebuild the economy – helping to deliver the homes, jobs, and infrastructure needed for a growing population while protecting the environment. A presumption in favour of sustainable development is intended to mean that proposals should be approved promptly unless they compromise these sustainable development principles.
The draft framework still includes a commitment to protect the green belt, areas of outstanding natural beauty and sites of special scientific interest while at the same time encouraging "a new generation of renewable energy projects". It also still offers protection for historic and cultural heritage and bio-diversity and adds new protection for peat bogs as well as tackling light pollution at night. Communities will also be able to earmark important local green spaces for special protection.
Planning minister Greg Clark said: "Clarity in planning has become lost in translation. National planning policy and central government guidance has become so bloated that it now contains more words than the complete works of Shakespeare, making it impenetrable to ordinary people. We need a simpler, swifter system that is easier to understand and where you don't need to pay for a lawyer to navigate your way around."
Claiming that the new proposals clarified the importance of planning to safeguarding "our extraordinary environment" and meeting the needs of communities now and in the future, Clark added: "We now want to hear the thoughts of councils, communities and businesses on the draft framework and work together to get the planning system right for generations to come."
Hank Dittmar, the chief executive of The Prince's Foundation, said: "The framework appears to [be] both simpler and robust and we look forward to commenting to help ensure that quality development for people and the environment remains at its core."
The chair of the Major Developers Group Sir Stuart Lipton said he was "delighted" with the framework because planning was overdue for radical reform, adding that the result will be a more effective planning system that will "have regard for a balance of the interests of the community, the environment and the growth agenda".
And the chairman of the National Association of Local Councils Michael Carter said he too was delighted that the new document would empower communities to shape the areas in which they live.
"We agree that they should have a major say in where housing, and other types of sustainable development, should go," he said. "The National Association believes that this is vital for sustainable economic growth in England. We welcome the fact that local communities will have the power to set their own standards that will meet the needs of local circumstances."