Controversy over new planning rules

Controversial reforms to the planning system in England have been unveiled but campaigners say they amount to a licence to concrete over the countryside.

The new draft of the National Planning Policy Framework has been published and cuts the current 1000 pages of planning rules to just 50.

Michael Holmes, spokesperson for the National Homebuilding and Renovating Show, said: “The focus on building brownfield sites will open up new opportunities for self-builders provided they are prepared for the increase in costs involved in preparing the land for building.

“However, the idea of ending so called ‘garden grabbing’ – an expected new addition to the NPPF – will threaten the self-build community, Britain’s biggest single largest housebuilder. Garden plots were one of the single largest sources of land for the 12,000 plus families who built their own home last year.

“No homeowner has ever had their garden grabbed – they have chosen to sell excess land for development, usually in exchange for a large cheque. It is this which probably upsets the neighbours not the new housing.

“What’s more it is a total contradiction of sustainable housing policy. Increasing density in existing settlements by building in gardens reduces the need for development on greenfield sites.”

But the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s Helen Marshall said: “What we are most worried about is that ordinary countryside, that isn’t green belt or areas of outstanding beauty, is going to be really put at risk by these changes.”

And the Countryside Alliance executive chairman Barney White-Spunner said the first draft of the reforms had been too vague on giving power to communities, and hoped that the government had listened to local concerns before the final reforms.

He added: “At a time when rural pubs, shops and schools are closing at a worrying rate, a more simple but rigorous set of planning regulations could go a long way to reviving the struggling rural economy.”