Planning Minister Greg Clark says new planning policy will protect the countryside

Ministers today claimed they had listened to public concerns about planning reforms when they publishing a final version of their new policy.

There had been fears when the National Planning Policy Framework was published last July that it would make it much easier to build on countryside areas.

But speaking in the House of Commons planning minister Greg Clark said there would be 'robust protections' for designated areas of countryside, such as green belt or the Norfolk Broads.

Meanwhile the government reinstated a requirement for planning authorities to recognise that undesignated areas of countryside also had 'intrinsic value and beauty'.

Mr Clark said: 'Our reforms to planning policy have three fundamental objectives. To put unprecedented power in the hands of communities to shape the places in which they live.

'To better support growth to give the next generation the chance that our generation has had to have a decent home, and to allow the jobs to be created on which our prosperity depends.

'And to ensure that the places we cherish – our countryside, towns and cities – are bequeathed to the next generation in a better condition than they are now.'

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Campaigners had feared that a requirement that councils decide planning applications on a 'presumption in favour of sustainable development' would allow developers to force through projects in spite of public opposition.

But Mr Clark said each planning authority area's 'local plan', drawn up by the council in consultation with voters, would be the 'keystone' to all planning decisions – dictating where development went.

Another change includes an explicit return to 'brownfield first', which requires councils to favour previously used land for new development instead of green field sites, and a clearer definition of 'sustainable development'. The new policy will also favour town centre development.

Mr Clark said the changes would allow more homes to be built, which have been held up in part by the 'sclerosis' of the planning system.

He said: 'The framework guarantees robust protections for our natural and historic environment, and goes further by requiring net improvements to put right some of the neglect that has been visited on us.'

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