TCPA calls for new planning framework to unlock rural economy
Published by Nneka Opara for TCPA in Central Government and also in Communities, Environment, Housing, Local Government
Leading housing and planning charity, the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) has published a policy statement today on the future of rural England. Cherished for its distinctive landscapes and diverse wildlife, rural England is also home for over 12 million people and at least half a million businesses, and an open-air factory for growing food and providing essential eco-services such as water, flood control, recyclable energy and carbon sinks.
However, more than this, the TCPA wants to address the long-term needs and prospects of a rural Englandwhich is facing huge demographic, economic and environmental challenges. In particular, by recognising the benefits that high quality new communities - in the right places - can offer to rural areas; such as garden cities or new market towns, in providing affordable housing, creating jobs and promoting sustainable lifestyles and development.
Trevor Cherrett, TCPA Policy Council member and lead author of the Rural Policy Statement said:
“New communities offer a powerful opportunity to deliver much needed housing for our rural areas in a holistic and comprehensively planned way, rather than through piecemeal development. The exact opposite to urban sprawl and ‘bolt-on estates’. Not only can they deliver more housing with potentially less environmental impact, they also present a significant opportunity to embed community governance structures, create jobs, and promote low-carbon living in high-quality, sustainable and inclusive places. “
“New garden cities, market towns or sustainable urban extensions will not answer the housing crisis on their own, but they must be part of a comprehensive approach to delivering more and better affordable housing, offering choice, and maintaining and enhancing our existing homes and places.”
In advance of the new National Planning Policy Framework’s publication, the TCPA`s statement re-asserts the Association’s support for the Rural Coalition’s report, The Rural Challenge, led by Lord Matthew Taylor of Goss Moor, and highlights some critical challenges and opportunities for ensuring the long-term resilience and vibrancy of rural England. In short, they are:
1. Housing: A fundamental challenge is addressing how the national meets the additional housing and employment needs of a growing and ageing population. The TCPA believes that well designed, connected and sustainable development in the countryside, including new garden cities and market towns, is part of that solution.
2. The economy: Rural economies are varied and have great potential for growth. They are relatively well placed to respond flexibly to changes in world markets and growth technologies – provided that the infrastructure is supported and improved, for example by providing small workplace units, fast broadband and helpful support for home working. Rural planning policies should recognise and facilitate the potential for rural economies to change and grow.
3. Climate change: Rural areas have a crucial role to play in growing food and providing eco-services in a world facing the threats of climate change. The food security imperative means that rural policy must support farms in growing food more efficiently while also delivering essential eco-services such as water, drainage and flood control, recyclable energy and carbon sinks.
4. Implementation: Implementing these policies successfully will be the greatest challenge of all. While the difficulties and solutions may be familiar, delivering them will require a joined-up approach and specific recognition within the government’s planning reforms. Fundamentally, delivery will require:
- National policies which through ‘rural proofing’ recognise and respond to specific rural issues such as affordable housing, declining services, and the provision of eco-services; and also respond to rural areas’ potential to provide sustainable jobs and homes for a significant number of people.
- Sub-national analysis and co-operation which recognises and responds to key strategic inter-relationships between issues such as employment, housing, transport, energy, recycling and conservation through effective collaboration between appropriate bodies such as local authorities and Local Economic Partnerships.
- Local and community planning which recognises and responds to the distinctive needs and opportunities of rural communities through effective collaboration between community-led planning initiatives and the local plans and strategies of local authorities and other bodies.
Trevor Cherrett, added:
“The TCPA has set out its vision for the future of rural England at a time when the planning system is going through a very radical transformation, with an emphasis on localism alongside the removal of the strategic tier. Rural communities, with their strong traditions and experience of community-led initiatives, have much to gain from localism, provided that it is implemented in a constructive, inclusive and practicable way. Indeed, they are in a position to lead the way in showing how a ‘bottom-up’ approach can work. However, there are demographic, social, economic and environmental challenges and opportunities facing rural areas which cannot be resolved by local communities alone. The TCPA is concerned about these wider challenges and how they can be addressed, and urge Government to take the longer view when revising the National Planning Policy Framework.”
Kate Henderson, TCPA Chief Executive said:
“Many of the challenges facing our rural communities are also facing our urban centres, such as a chronic affordable housing shortage and adapting and mitigating to climate change. However, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and rural England is itself a diverse place. Therefore we must recognise the unique challenges and opportunities that our rich and varied countryside offers and through the planning system we must ensure that development - planned and delivered in the right place at the right time - improves quality of life, providing homes and jobs, while protecting and enhancing the countryside and open spaces important to all of us.”