For some time now I have been trying to find out when the government is going to issue its final version of the National Planning Policy Framework and whether it intends to make significant changes to the controversial first draft.
Instead of pursuing my queries through the normal parliamentary process perhaps I should just have waited until the government apparently chose to announce its intentions through a Newsnight reporter.
Yesterday evening Allegra Stratton, Newsnight’s Political editor, reported that few changes will be made to the draft NPPF document published in July of last year.
A number of organisations including the National Trust, The Campaign to Protect Rural England and RSPB were really concerned over the lack of protection for the countryside given by the framework. In fact, around 14,000 people and organisations responded to the consultation many expressing key changed that needed to be made. It remains to be seen whether their protests have been listened to.
Today in parliamentI raised the matter with the Speaker. It is really unacceptable for government to brief journalists about their policy intentions, especially those as contentious as these planning reforms, before bringing the matter to parliament.
But the more serious issue is that they seem to have ignored almost all of the responses to the consultation as the bulk of respondents wanted to see a number of changes including:
- A tighter definition of ‘sustainable development’.
- A stronger policy promoting development on brownfield sites.
- A greater emphasis on a town centre first policy
- Clear transitional arrangements.
If last night’s report had anybasis it in fact it seems that the many organisations, and people, who stood against the first draft look set to be bitterly disappointed. It is becoming increasingly clear that these ill-though through reforms are being driven by the Treasury’s incorrect view that planning is a brake on growth rather than a genuine attempt to improve the planning system.
In fact, such is the Treasury’s role in the NPPF it seems we will have to wait until budget day (now the most likely date for the publication of the revised framework) to see the extent of the disappointment many opponents to the draft will feel.