Planning draft weakness aired

Trade bodies flag food security and green space issues in planning policy framework responses.

There are fears over policy change for farmland - image:HW
There are fears over policy change for farmland - image:HW

In the latest of a string of submissions to the consultation on the Government's National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the Farming & Rural Issues Group for the South East (FRIG) highlights food security and greening the environment as two omissions.

FRIG chair Andrew Colquhoun said: "There is much to welcome for rural businesses and communities in the draft framework. But it is silent on how the planning system should support increased food production by domestic farmers and growers, something which Defra now has as a key objective.

"In its attempts to simplify the system, the DCLG seems to weaken the current protection given to the best and most versatile farmland. In terms of food security, this is farmland that the country can't afford to lose.

"We are also concerned about the contradictions in the draft that give no confidence that farmers and growers will find it easier to get planning permission for new buildings and infrastructure to boost production and profitability. It sounds as though they could be at increased risk of nimbyism."

In its response, FRIG also expressed its disappointment that the draft framework does not follow up on commitments it believed that DCLG ministers had made to recognise the importance of planning for urban green spaces.

Landscape Institute president Jo Watkins agreed: "So far the planning reform debate has focused exclusively on the countryside. No-one has said much about how we develop in urban areas. Given that most people in Britain live in cities and towns, this is extraordinary. Any change to the planning system will not only have an impact on the countryside but on how we develop in our towns and cities too."

Meanwhile, in its submission to the consultation on the draft NPPF, the NFU welcomed the white paper's more streamlined planning process for rural developments.

However, it suggested five areas where the framework could be strengthened to meet the Government's objective for increased food production, such as allowing the building of more food production buildings.

HRH the Prince of Wales and his son the Duke of Cambridge have criticised, through the Prince's Foundation, NPPF plans on sustainability and greenfield sites.

The foundation called for more clarification on what the Government meant by "sustainable" and queried the proposal to allow urban extensions of greenfield areas if they were more sustainable than brownfield extensions.

The NPPF needed to be "tightened" to ensure retail development continued to be situated in town centres, said the foundation's chief executive, Hank Dittmar.

The Royal Town Planning Institute added that the NPPF needed to better balance economic, social and environmental priorities.

GreenLink's response to the framework

Greenspace coalition GreenLink criticised the "mindset" of the draft National Planning Policy Framework that implies that as long as an application represents "sustainable development" it should rarely, if ever, be refused.

Its submission said: "Planning permission should only be granted where the development would not be to the detriment of the local landscape or the historic and cultural character and fabric of the area, which should include places where children and teenagers play."

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