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Government accused of 'undermining local democracy' as plans for 200,000 green belt homes revealed

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Government accused of 'undermining local democracy' as plans for 200,000 green belt homes revealed

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Local Government

Government accused of 'undermining local democracy' as plans for 200,000 green belt homes revealed Government accused of 'undermining local democracy' as plans for 200,000 green belt homes revealed

The government's new planning framework has come under renewed fire today for "unnecessarily damaging the countryside" and "undermining local democracy" after a report revealed more than 700,000 new homes are planned in rural locations, including 200,000 for the green belt.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England report 'Community Control or Countryside Chaos?' analyses the impact of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) on the countryside in the two years since it was adopted.

The research has found that the reforms are forcing local councils to accept major developments against their will in all parts of the country from Devon to Derbyshire and Suffolk to Staffordshire.

According to the CPRE, the countryside around towns and villages acrosss England is "under siege" with hundreds of thousands of new homes planned.

It claims: "Sites already earmarked for housing are being left undeveloped while councils are under increasing pressure to allocate more and more land for future development.

"This pressure has significantly slowed the rate at which local plans are being adopted, meaning councils are powerless to decide what land should be developed in the best interests of local communities."

The report also reveals that only a quarter of local authorities propose to prioritise brownfield sites over greenfield because the NPPF does not give enough support for them to do so.

CPRE’s research shows over two thirds of appeals for major housing have gone in favour of developers in the last year. It claims councils are increasingly reluctant to defend an appeal due to the risk of incurring costs, which can go into the hundreds of thousands of pounds if they reject inappropriate development that is ultimately overturned.

Shaun Spiers, chief executive of CPRE, said: "This report provides firm evidence from across England that the government’s planning reforms are not achieving their stated aims. Far from community control of local development, we are seeing councils under pressure to disregard local democracy to meet top-down targets.

"Local authorities are having to agree fanciful housing numbers and allocate huge areas of greenfield land to meet them. Where they lack an up to date plan, the countryside is up for grabs and many villages feel under siege from developers. But tragically the result is not more housing, and certainly not more affordable housing – just more aggro and less green space.

"The Government urgently needs to rethink its planning policies. Otherwise, its defining legacy will be – in the words of Nadhim Zahawi MP – the 'physical harm' it does to the countryside.

"In recent weeks there have been some signs that ministers are willing to do more to promote brownfield development and protect the green belt. This is welcome, but much more needs to be done to protect the countryside, put communities back in the driving seat, and build the new homes the country needs."

According to the report, in March 2013 CPRE found at least 20 cases where major housing developments (of 10 dwellings or more) were granted planning permission in open countryside, despite being contrary to local planning policies and, more widely, the government’s stated commitment to localism.

The CPRE states: "At the time the government disputed our analysis, saying that the cases are not representative. Ministers have also pointed to an overall reduction in the number of appeals. But the proportion of all appeals for major housing developments (each of 10 dwellings or more) that have been allowed has steadily climbed over the past five years, from 31.7% in 2008/9 to 46% in 2012/35."

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