The Campaign to Protection Rural England, the National Trust and the Daily Telegraph, none of which could be described as an organisation of the far left, ganged up on the ConDem government at the weekend over its plans to “loosen” planning controls, especially around the Green Belt.
The government’s plans are a thinly disguised way of making it cheaper and easier for the Conservatives’ mates in the building industry to make an even faster buck.
Like the NHS and the Routemaster bus, the Green Belt is one of the wonderfully civilising developments of 20th century Britain. In Croydon, we should be especially careful to protect it, since the Green Belt has, for 60-plus years, prevented urban sprawl to the south, preserving some wonderful countryside on our doorstep.
But, under the guise of a need for more housing, this government wants to let its billionaire developer mates run amok, building their box-like houses and flats over virgin countryside. Why? Because it will be cheaper for their mates.
This much was evident at the weekend, when it was Chancellor Gideon Osborne – whose back-of-an-envelope economic policies have managed to throttle the life out of Britain’s recovery – who was wheeled out to talk about the importance of the government’s proposed changes. This is not about planning issues, it is about satisfying the financiers.
The government conveniently overlooks the estimated 600,000 empty properties around the country, and the many brown field sites within existing urban areas. The reason for a lack of recent developments in Croydon, for example, is little to do with the planning laws, and much more to do with long-term council bungling over strategy, and a global economic crisis which has seen developers fail to raise the capital to pay for their schemes.
Diverting developers away from Croydon town centre to nearby greenfield sites – just because they are cheaper to develop – will do Croydon no favours. And once those meadows, ancient woodlands and downlands have been concreted over, they are lost for evermore.
The CPRE has prepared a standard letter for people to send to their MPs to express their concern and opposition to the planning regulation changes. Those of us unfortunate enough to live in Croydon South are sure to get the backing of our absentee MP, since Richard Ottaway is certainly not going to welcome the bulldozers moving in on his little bit of the Green Belt near Bletchingley.
The CPRE’s standard letter states: “The Government must be clear that the environmental, social and economic implications of a development are considered and found to be sustainable before planning permission is granted. This means ensuring protection of the environment and a better quality of life for all, rather than prioritising economic growth regardless of the consequences.”
The CPRE and the Telegraph are calling for local planners (in our local case, they will be in the Surrey districts of Reigate & Banstead and Tandridge) to say “no” to damaging and inappropriate development and to ensure the countryside as a whole is protected from damaging development – not just our best landscapes.
They want to give local planning authorities the ability to require the re-use of previously developed land before building on greenfield sites.
None of which appears the slightest bit unreasonable. Unless government policy is being dictated by greedy developers.
- To take a look at the CPRE’s news on this subject, and to send your own letter to your MP, click here.
- Osborne defends planning changes (bbc.co.uk)
- Further urban sprawl solves nothing | Editorial (guardian.co.uk)
- Rural U-turn is essential (telegraph.co.uk)
- Government to press ahead with planning reforms (independent.co.uk)
- Hands off Britain’s countryside (telegraph.co.uk)
- Planning reforms will devastate historic sites (telegraph.co.uk)
- Planning reforms could lead to loss of ancient woodland, warns trust (telegraph.co.uk)
- Bill Bryson joins fight in countryside planning row (guardian.co.uk)