Coalition planning law reforms face stiff opposition

Jamie Duff / PA

Coalition plans to reform UK planning law is likely to "cause traffic chaos" as it allows thousands of new homes to be built in green fields.

That was the warning from transport pressure groups yesterday, but are there any other options?

The National Planning Policy Framework, which attempts to do away the 1,000-plus pages of local and regional planning regulation that operated under Labour with a simplified 52-page book of rules, has come under fire from a number of groups.

The RAC Foundation and the Campaign for Better Transport have called for the Coalition to rewrite its proposed planning reforms so new houses and flats are constructed near exisiting transport facilities, such as railway stations or bus routes, or in places where public transport can rapidly be laid on.

Yesterday the Women's Institute joined organisations including the National Trust, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England and English Heritage in opposition to reform.

Transport fears
The new system, currently out to consultation, centres around a "presumption in favour of sustainable development" which critics say will mean local objections will no longer be allowed to stand in the way of construction projects.

The transport lobby groups said that this phrase should change to "a presumption in favour of locating development next to existing public transport".

The Daily Mail reports that in a letter to planning minister, Greg Clark they said the reforms would make it difficult to stop development that would overload roads. These will, the groups said, include out-of-town office complexes as well as housing in what are now green fields.

They called for development to be encouraged only near good public transport links, for rejection of estates or offices which put too great a burden on the road network, and a rule to force developers to consider how people would move to and from their new homes and offices.

According to the Mail, Professor Stephen Glaister of the RAC Foundation said: "We need a planning framework which ensures that transport conditions improve rather than worsen."

Stephen Joseph of Campaign for Better Transport added: "Unless ministers reconsider their plans, the National Planning Policy Framework will mark a return to the worst aspects of 1980s car dependent planning."

Green space at risk
Lib Dem local government minister Andrew Stunnell has admitted that there is no way of avoiding building homes on the countryside if Britain is to solve its chronic housing shortage.

The Mail reports that at a fringe event at the Lib Dem conference, Mr Stunnell said about a quarter of a million households were being formed each year.

He added: "Last year we built 125,000 new homes, so we're desperately short of the homes that people need to move into."

He also appeared to back the idea of building new towns to help address the housing shortage and joked that unless homes were built in unpopular places, the only option would be to house families "offshore".

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