Countryside under threat from new planning rules

builder in dust cloudMore than 1,000 extra "major developments" may be approved every year under controversial government planning proposals, The Daily Telegraph revealed today.

That could mean an extra 3,000 acres of land being built on every year in England, not to mention the land taken up by thousands of smaller building projects.
Ministers say the new, simplified framework will give more power over planning applications to local communities and cut red tape, allowing the economy to recover more quickly.

But critics including the National Trust argue that the policy will lead to unrestrained building in the countryside.

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, which represents environmental experts, is one of the organisations worried about the impact of the new regime.

Its executive director Nick Reeves said: "A new planning framework is an opportunity to do things better. But, sadly, this government's proposals are little more than a builders' charter and a sop to the powerful construction lobby. Developers will be rewarded while neglecting sustainability and the environment."

Tory MP Tim Yeo has also voiced his concerns. "I fully understand the reasons for concern. It's a highly sensitive area," he said. "If it means uncontrolled development, I would be very concerned about that. We've seen that happen in other countries, and we really don't want it happening here."

However, planning minister Greg Clark has defended the proposals. "We cannot afford to turn our back on the need to reform the planning system, to help deliver the sustainable growth this country desperately needs," he said. "The consequences would be to deny our young people the chance of owning a home and condemn many others to overcrowding and poverty driven by soaring rents and house prices."

This is a real concern with the National Housing Federation (NHF) warning that the housing market will be plunged into "cries" unless drastic action is taken.

"What we need to do is to build new homes," said NHF campaigns director Ruth Davison. "Governments have not properly understood that we in the grip of a housing crisis, and unless they do something about it an entire generation will be locked out of decent housing."
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