Countryside at risk under new rules?

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Local countryside campaigners are up in arms about new Government proposals to shake up the planning system.

The Government has published a draft National Planning Policy Framework for public consultation. It is the biggest reform of planning for over 50 years and local charity Friends of the Peak District believes it will place all of the country’s countryside - including the Peak District National Park - under threat.

“It’s a disaster waiting to happen,” said John King, planning officer with Friends of the Peak District.

“This new framework means the weakening of planning control. It doesn’t commit to the principle that the countryside should be protected for its own intrinsic character or beauty. What it does do is to place the Peak District under increasing threat and leave local communities and planning authorities powerless in the face of pressure from developers.

“It’s going to be chaos. It’s a return to the terrible planning system of the Eighties. There will be a lack of certainty that will be no good for communities, businesses or the countryside. No-one will know where they stand, which won’t deliver growth or protect the environment.”

Friends of the Peak District is frightened that pressure on the Peak District from damaging development will grow because of:

*weakening of policies that currently strictly control major developments in national parks

*changes to Green Belt policy which would allow building which would previously have been restricted on the borders of the national park

*loss of emphasis on brownfield regeneration - as a result of the removal of the national brownfield target and failure to promote efficient use of land

*the creation of new neighbourhood forums that will have the power to give planning permission but will be set up in such a way that they could be dominated by businesses rather than local residents

*weakening of the ‘town centre first’ policy by removing office development from the sequential test which prioritises the use of land in towns and cities first

“We’re urging people to object to the draft framework now and to write to their MP to tell them how these proposals could really damage the Peak District,” added Mr King. “There is still time to let the Government know that we strongly oppose these changes and to save our countryside.”

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