UK rural planning changes spark worry

Woman walking dogThe government's new planning reforms threaten to get Middle England in a right lather. A cross-party group of MPs are deeply worried by proposed measures from David Cameron to slash planning red tape. Guidance from the new National Planning Policy Framework could be trimmed from 1,000 pages to just 52.

Housebuilders will be pleased - but what about you?

Rural ideal?

It depends on where you are. If you already live in the countryside and are struggling to get a foot on the housing ladder, then the proposed changes may be good news. Affordable homes in rural England are hard to find, especially if you are having problems raising a deposit.

For lovers of the English shires (and those who have already climbed the property ladder) the changes are more of a challenge. The MPs are certainly right to be concerned in some aspects. If the trimming of red tape means more planning applications going to appeal, then the courts could be quickly clogged. How do you define "sustainable development"?

But some of the new proposals make sense in other respects. The commitment to develop brownfield sites before greenfield sites to bolster urban regeneration is clearly sensible. Even the National Trust supports some of the changes.

German model

However, the government should also be looking at the land bought up by developers in the last decade. If they're not using/developing it, why not? Have you had a look down your local high street recently? What about all the empty local shops and buildings in your own area that could be re-developed first?

In the background, there is still talk of 'rebalancing' the economy - of becoming more like Germany with more emphasis on manufacturing for future economic growth. Countries like Germany also have 'greenbelt' areas, especially around Munich and Frankfurt. But unfortunately too much of our economy is geared to land rent. By contrast, German and continental property prices are far more affordable.

Cameron will, it's likely, see the proposals watered down yet. The final draft should arrive by Spring.
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