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Campaigners set out tests for planning bill

Words: Laura Edgar
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Six tests have been identified to ensure that people and nature remain part of the planning system.

The tests have been put together by a coalition of 22 housing, planning, transport, environmental and heritage organisations in response to the proposed planning reforms set out in planning white paper Planning for the Future, published in August 2020.

They will form the base for the forthcoming planning bill.

The organisations are urging the government to “change course and avoid ousting people and nature from planning”.

The six tests provide a scorecard that uses the government’s wording in Planning for the Future to critically assess whether its vision for planning will become a reality in the planning bill. They are:

  • Local democracy: Retain and enhance genuine and accessible community participation and accountability throughout the planning process in all areas.
  • Affordable homes: Deliver an evidenced strategy to build affordable homes and provide local authorities with the power to turn down developments which do not deliver affordable housing
  • Climate emergency: Accelerate climate action to meet the UK’s net-zero targets and ensure that local planning authorities are empowered to deliver climate-friendly developments.
  • Nature: Protect sites important for biodiversity and nature’s recovery, and require enhancement of nature in all developments;
  • Heritage: The conservation of heritage and designated landscapes are safeguarded against inappropriate development and;
  • Health: Embed human health, wellbeing and equality in the planning system, including priorities for access to natural green space, active travel and reducing air pollution.

The organisations include countryside charity CPRE, Ramblers, Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust, Greenpeace, RSPB England, Bat Conservation Trust and the Cycling UK.

Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, said: “Planning has enormous potential to reshape society and create healthy, low carbon and thriving communities. But what the government is currently proposing would push planning in the opposite direction. Surely, we should be encouraging more people to take part in the planning process, not alienating whole communities, which will undoubtedly be the consequences of the government’s changes to planning. Unless ministers change direction they will not only fail many of these key tests, but will have failed to reach the ambitions espoused in their own planning white paper. Communities, parliamentarians and campaigners are already ‘seeing red’. That’s why we’re calling on the government to urgently change course and put people and nature at the centre of the upcoming planning bill.”

Emma Marsh, director at RSPB England, highlighted that “we are in a nature and climate emergency”.

“We are on the verge of already having lost more wildlife than we have left. We urgently need a planning system that tackles these critical threats to our quality of life and long-term survival head-on by supporting nature’s recovery and creating vibrant, healthy and nature-rich places that we can all proudly call home. Unfortunately, the approach that the government set out within its planning white paper is nowhere near good enough for tackling these critical challenges. In this critical year for the environment, we call upon the government to listen and use this opportunity to create a genuinely nature positive planning system for England and meet their global commitments with domestic action.”

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