Government’s missed opportunity to protect local open spaces

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We are dismayed that the government proposes, in wholesale changes to the planning system, to undermine the protection afforded to green spaces.

The society has raised these concerns in its response to the consultation from the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government on amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).  The NPPF, among other things, enables land to be designated as Local Green Space (LGS) but the process and the protection are unclear and need further definition.

Queen’s Crescent, Local Green Space, Exeter

Says Nicola Hodgson, case officer for the society: ‘In the consultation on the NPPF the government has missed the opportunity to improve the process to designate land as LGS and to strengthen the protection mechanism.  This leaves local open spaces, which have been so vital during the lockdown restrictions, vulnerable to development.

‘LGS can be designated during the production of the neighbourhood plan or review of the local plan.  The uncertainty surrounding the future of neighbourhood planning puts at risk one of the processes to enable local communities to submit areas of land for protection as LGS.

‘This consultation needs to be considered alongside (1) the proposals for the planning system in the recent white paper (Planning for the Future), (2) the extension of Permitted Development Rights and (3) the proposals in the NPPF consultation to limit the use of Article 4[1] directions (which restrict the scope of permitted development rights in relation to a site or to a particular type of development).  Clearly these changes, when considered together, will leave green spaces, public paths and our unique and varied landscapes exposed to detrimental development.

‘We welcome the inclusion of the reference to the UN sustainable development goals but believe the goals should be woven through the NPPF to ensure decisions are truly sustainable.

‘We support the recognition of the need for holistic place-making.  The pandemic has highlighted the importance of local open space accessible for all.  However, the positive statements are negated by the lack of a full review of the protection of green space.  This is badly needed, to provide local communities with access to green infrastructure for essential health and well-being benefits,’ Nicola concludes.

[1]Article 4 of the General Permitted Development Order

May 2021 update:   Planning for nature: How the planning system can deliver for the environment

As an active member of the Wildlife and Countryside Link (WCL), our case officer Nicola Hodgson, has contributed towards aspects of the policy document Planning for nature: How the planning sustem can deliver for the environment, to include wording on protection of green spaces and rights of way. The paper was submitted to contacts at MHCLG and Defra.

Read the briefing here.

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