Green space policy gaps open

Quizzed at last week's Environmental Audit Committee meeting about his department's definition of "sustainable development" in the draft National Planning Policy Framework, and how the framework might function given its lack of precision, planning minister Greg Clark reportedly said he hoped the words in the final document would be sufficiently "watertight" so as not to be open to misinterpretation. And that this would come out of the consultation.

It certainly has. The Royal Town Planning Institute notes in its response that under the framework decision-makers are expected to variously apply "significant weight" to supporting economic growth, "great weight" to protecting landscape and scenic quality and "substantial weight" to green belt issues.

But aside from the potential development sclerosis that could be opened up by such lack of clarity, as we report this week, the final round of responses from green space specialists have highlighted the fundamental failure of the framework to promote the creation of quality urban spaces, with no requirement, for instance, for green infrastructure to be managed in local plans.

Meanwhile, concerns continue over a House of Lords debate this summer in which the Government indicated it was inclined to allow local authorities to use monies raised from developers via the new community infrastructure levy for purposes well beyond the intended brief - another potential disaster for urban green space, currently bearing the brunt of drastic public spending cuts.

There are reports that the Government may hold a further consultation or step back from implementing reforms in one go with scope for further discussion. At the very least this would provide another chance to press the green space case.

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