The final version of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which is about to be launched makes chilling reading for anybody or group which seeks to oppose unfettered and inappropriate development in our wonderful County.
We are already faced with the re-launch of the marginally revised Local Development Framework (LDF) with its new timetable which provides very little opportunity for consultation and proper scrutiny and on the back of this the Government’s new NPPF from April 2011 provides a green light for the urbanisation of the green lungs of Hereford.
The framework says that “the sites and scale of development identified in the plan should not be subject to such a scale of obligations and policy burdens that their ability to be developed viably is threatened”. It adds that developers should be able to expect “acceptable returns” including the reduction of the percentages of social and affordable housing. It further proposes that developer’s financial contributions such as the new homes bonus and community infrastructure levy should be considered as a material issue when granting planning permissions. In essence, rather than our Council receiving these benefits and bonuses as a consequence of granting the planning consents, it now allows the Council to make the receipt of these cash benefits a positive reason to be taken into account – God help us!. If this doesn’t distort the normal planning process, then what does?
The framework also says that Council’s should not only identify 5 years worth of housing land but also make an additional allowance of at least 20% to ensure choice and competition for land. Many authoritative bodies including CPRE, the National Trust, etc are opposed to these radical proposals and have essentially called this “a cash for sprawl” charter. It is hardly surprising that trade organisations representing the volume house builders and major developers are “delighted” with these proposals. I suspect we, the people of Hereford, may come to rue the day that this Government decided to “streamline the planning system”. The NPPF also states that applications that accord with statutory plans should be approved “without delay” and permission should be granted where the plan is “absent, silent, indeterminate or where relevant policies are out of date”, another erosion in the ability to object to development.
Government ministers have claimed that this new framework will reduce the thousands of pages of current planning guidance to just 52. I suspect that over the coming years we may come to regret the destruction of our current planning system with all its idiosyncrasies and the protection it provides by this Tory administration and come to see it as bad Government.
As an aside I wonder what cost savings there may be through a reduction in the head count in Herefordshire Council’s Planning Department as a result of these “streamlining proposals”.
The National Trust has set up an online petition against these proposals at:-