Prime Minister David Cameron has intervened in the debate over the Government’s planning reforms by writing to green groups and assuring them that he regards the British landscape as “a national treasure”.
The PM’s letter, sent to the likes of the National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “Let me say at the outset that I absolutely share and admire your commitment to the Let countryside, and wholeheartedly agree that policymakers have an enormous responsibility to our environment.
“Both as Prime Minister, as a rural constituency MP, and as an individual, I have always believed that our beautiful British landscape is a national treasure. We should cherish and protect it for everyone’s benefit.
“Our reform proposals are intended to simplify the system, strengthen local participation and secure sustainable development.
“I believe that sustainable development has environmental and social dimensions as well as an economic dimension, and we fully recognise the need for a balance between the three. Indeed, the purpose of the planning system as a whole, and of our proposals for it, is to achieve such a balance.
“Of course, we must ensure the appropriate protections for our magnificent countryside. This is why our reforms will maintain protections for the Green Belt, for National Parks and Areas of Outstanding National Beauty. It will introduce a new local green space designation which local communities can use to protect open places they value.
“And as you know, the framework insists on high environmental standards and good design. Poorly-designed and poorly-located development is in no one’s interest. Our aim is to secure a planning system that supports growth and prosperity and protects the interests both of today’s communities and of generations to come.”
Both the National Trust and the CPRE welcomed the letter but said they remained concerned about the impact of the Coalition’s proposals to simplify planning policy with a streamlined National Planning Policy Framework. The draft is out for consultation.
Shaun Spiers, chief executive of CPRE, said: “The Prime Minister’s assurances are welcome and we look forward to renewed and more constructive discussions with ministers to improve the draft planning framework. But the changes required are likely to be so far-reaching that there should be a further brief consultation on a substantially revised draft.”
Meanwhile, the British Property Federation’s chief executive Liz Peace said: “As ministers consult on the draft NPPF it is entirely right that legitimate concerns are raised, and that these are discussed in a level-headed way. We have been in contact with a range of groups, including the National Trust and the RSPB, to find common ground.”
22 September 2011