Devolving decisions on green spaces to local level could undermine regional strategy

Government proposals to devolve planning power to local communities could undermine more regional, green-space strategies, experts have warned.

This comes after communities secretary Eric Pickles and planning minister Greg Clark outlined plans to decentralise and streamline the planning system. Neighbourhood groups would have more say on "what areas should look like, where new shops, offices or homes should go and what green spaces should be protected", said the ministers.

They added that parish councils and local neighbourhood forums, rather than the town hall, would take control of planning.

Green space strategy consultant Peter Wilkinson said: "Involving communities in their neighbourhoods and integrating green space into that has positive results. But you can't just plan at a local level. There needs to be a strategic, more regional aspect in the form of urban and green infrastructure planning.

"You need to go beyond neighbourhood and community boundaries, otherwise it's impossible to rule out nimbyism and nobody sees the bigger picture."

Landscape architect Chris Churchman agreed: "Some work throws up intractable problems, and there will be a limit to the quality and quantity of some local involvement. Nimbyism will inevitably override more strategic, central interests by devolving power to a local level."

British Property Federation chief executive Liz Peace questioned how the devolution of power would work in urban areas without parish councils. "Changes should help stimulate growth to move the economy and pull the country out of debt," she said.

Royal Town Planning Institute president Ann Skippers called for more detail on how local planning authorities could meet their duty to plan for integrated sustainable development.

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