We have slated the government’s white paper, Planning for the Future. In our response to the government consultation, we have argued that the proposed reforms will put precious open spaces and paths at risk.
The government proposes to divide the country into three planning zones: ‘growth’ (suitable for substantial development), ‘renewal’ (suitable for development) and ‘protected’ (restricted development).
The society is concerned that there is no guaranteed protection for public open spaces and paths in the ‘growth’ and ‘renewal’ areas, and the ‘protected areas’ only cover a limited area of the country. Furthermore, there are no proposals to level up open space provision for all, despite the severe inequalities across the nation.
Community involvement would be restricted to the local-plan process so that people would lose their ability to comment on individual planning proposals and applications, drastically reducing local democracy. Permitted development rights would be extended, resulting in much more development affecting public paths and no prior administrative consideration of provision for the paths themselves.
The proposals conflict with both the Environment Bill, currently in parliament, and the government’s flagship 25-year environment plan. The threat posed to open spaces close to where people live, which were crucial during lockdown, would undermine public health and well-being.
Says Nicola Hodgson, one of our case officers: ‘These devastating proposals put at risk the thousands of small open spaces close to communities, at the very time that people are discovering how much they need them.
‘The government pledged, in its 25-year environment plan, to leave the environment in a better state than it found it, to pass on to the next generation. The government’s proposals to destroy our planning system show what an empty promise that was.’