Planning changes get mixed views

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THE shake-up in the national planning system has received a mixed response.

Land agency firm Strutt and Parker believes that the changes open up opportunities for farmers and landowners to work together with parish councils and local forums in a far more effective way than has been possible in the past.

But Action for Market Towns – the national charity representing market and small towns across the UK – says the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) needs to have a much clearer definition of sustainable development than that included in the draft document.

The plans involve the replacement of more than 1,000 pages of national planning policy guidance with a 53-page NPPF, designed to simplify the sets of policies.

And a neighbourhood planning aspect is being added, which means it will be more important than ever before to engage with local groups when considering development proposals as local opinion will carry considerable weight.

Simon Beeby, partner in Strutt & Parker’s Morpeth office, said: “As far as the new plans are concerned there is a welcome return to Local Plans, which will be prepared by local authorities and will replace the unloved and unwieldy Local Development Frameworks.

“Of all the policy changes, the concept of neighbourhood plans opens up opportunities for farmers and landowners to work together with parish councils on planning matters in a far more effective way.

“This is the ‘bottom-up’ antidote to regional planning, which has overtones of heavy-handed government, unresponsive to the needs or wishes of local communities.”

Action for Market Towns insists that one of the NPPF’s main features, the presumption in favour of sustainable development, needs to be crystal clear or the confusion could allow a number of projects not in the best interests of the community to be approved.

Policy Manager Alison Eardley said: “We would urge the Government to define sustainable development in terms of assessing proposed developments by weighing up their impacts on environment, population and economy equally in order to come to an informed and balanced decision.

“We need to ensure that unscrupulous developers cannot use presumption to avoid presenting plans that are well-constructed and abide by appropriate standards.”