CPRE Northumberland

Skip to navigation

Planning - where is it taking us?

New housing New housing © Shutterstock

Our comprehensive town and country planning system was created in 1947 but has been repeatedly modified since then.

In recent years it has been significantly weakened, mainly at the behest of the major house builders, who argue that the planning system is preventing them from addressing England's housing crisis. However, when one looks at the amount of land for which they have received planning permission, but have chosen not to build on, one is sceptical of this claim.

The Coalition Government (2010-2015) attempted to simplify the planning system by introducing a National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF) which reduced over 1000 pages of Government policy guidance to just 52 pages. In principle this was welcome but to achieve such compression much had to be left out and the first draft was seriously deficient. However, as a result of strenuous efforts by CPRE and others it has been considerably improved, though it still leaves something to be desired.  For instance the Government has persistently refused to reinstate the proviso contained in the old guidance for 'brownfield' first, whereby previously developed land had to be redeveloped before 'greenfield' sites around the edges of our towns and cities could be released for building.

The planning'gap'

Particularly controversial in the new guidelines is the strategic level of planning. The original 1947 Development Plans were replaced in 1968 by county Structure Plans, which in turn were abolished in 2004. In 1998 Regional Spatial Strategies were introduced, but these were abolished along with the entire regional government structure when the Coalition government came to power in 2010. This was an act of ideological vandalism because it has now become apparent that there is a continuing need for both a strategic level of planning and a meso-level of government machinery (intermediate between local and national) to carry it out. The result is the present growth of Combined Authorities which are tasked with taking control of plans and issues which are too large in scope to be dealt with by individual local councils. It is becoming evident that the 'duty to co-operate' imposed on local planning authorities when Regional Spatial Strategies were abolished is weak and ineffective.

Local and Neighbourhood Plans

All local planning authorities now have to prepare Local Plans and within these contexts communities can prepare Neighbourhood Plans, through parish and town councils where they exist or through other representative bodies where they do not. This enables local communities to have a say in planning applications that affect their areas. It is also giving a voice to numerous local campaigning groups, including the county branches of CPRE, which at all levels is more than willing to assist local communities in dealing with unwelcome planning applications, or in preparing Neighbourhood plans.

CPRE regularly supports people opposing inappropriate developments in the countryside.  We can make considerable expertise available and have useful publications to help you in these tasks. If you are concerned about proposed changes in your area, or just feel you would like to be more involved in its plans, why not contact us?

join us

Back to top