Countryside campaigners’ concerns over new planning laws

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- Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2011

A house-building scheme south of Norwich has been highlighted by national countryside campaigners as an example of how planning reforms are failing to prevent unwanted developments.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has published a report today which examines the first 12 months since the publication of the government's National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

The study says the concerns of local communities – and the spirit of the localism agenda – are being overruled by the pro-growth document which creates a 'presumption in favour of sustainable development'.

Among the CPRE's national cases studies is the decision made in December by South Norfolk Council to grant planning permission for 180 houses on the edge of Mulbarton, prior to the completion of the village neighbourhood plan.

CPRE chief executive Shaun Spiers said: 'Despite the rhetoric of localism, it now seems that local communities are increasingly powerless to prevent damaging development even in the most sensitive locations.


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'The country badly needs more housing, including affordable housing in rural areas. But we will not get housing on the scale we need without popular consent, and there will be no popular consent unless local communities believe that they are being listened to and that the planning system is minimising the loss of much-loved green fields.'

The Mulbarton plans were approved by South Norfolk's development management committee on December 5 despite the objections of 149 residents.

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The parish council objected to the proposal because it did not believe the site was the best one in the village for new development, and it wanted to develop a neighbourhood plan to promote development on a more locally acceptable site.

Following the decision, parish council chairman Peter Leigh said: 'What is the sense in having democracy, development boundaries and due process when it is completely swamped?'

Tim Horspole, South Norfolk's director of growth and localism, said Mulbarton Parish Council's views were taken into account, but the key factor in the decision was the lack of a five-year housing land supply in the district.

'This meant the council had to follow the NPPF, which requires local planning authorities to exercise a presumption in favour of sustainable development where a five-year housing land supply cannot be demonstrated,' he said. 'Having considered the attributes of the site, and the NPPF, the committee concluded that the council could not sustain a refusal of planning permission at appeal and granted planning permission.'

For the full CPRE report, named Countryside Promises: Planning Realities, see http://bit.ly/XzAEeo.

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