We’ve been blogging over these past weeks, trying to keep people in North West Leeds well informed about the current situation on the planning exercise in this area. It’s sometimes felt as if we were rolling a stone uphill, especially in the face of disinformation and spin from our LibDem MP.
So you can imagine our surprise when we read the verdict of ex-Tory minister, Nick Herbert, on the National Planning Policy Framework.
An ‘environmental disaster’ was what he called it in a planning debate in the House of Commons this week. He accused developers of buying up brownfield land, then sitting on it, while they pressured planning inspectors to allow them to build on greenfield sites.
“We are effectively moving not to the brownfield-first site policy that we should have but to a greenfield-first policy.’ the Daily Mail quotes him as saying.
His Tory colleague Nicholas Soames suggested that ‘the planning system was at risk of being corrupted by developers and their lobbyists’.
Well, it’s good to see that some Tories are wakening up – belatedly. This is what Environmental bodies like CPRE said would be the results of the National Planning Framework from the outset.
Because make no mistake about it – these are not the accidental or unintended consequences of the Framework. The National Planning Policy Framework was designed, as Mr Herbert and the Daily Mail put it, to ‘require. . local councils in England to draw up local plans to provide land for development’, and to write in a presumption in favour of development. There is no requirement in it to build first on brown field sites. Rather, as we’ve said before, the legal position is specifically that there is no provision for ‘sequential development’ – i.e. brownfield first.
In one way it’s satisfying to be agreed with.
But it gives us no joy when we witness the pressures and misunderstandings these policies have produced – and their likely impact on the Green Belt.
We desperately need new housing, especially social housing and affordable homes. But this new Planning Framework was not the way to produce that. Instead it is acting as a developers’ charter – developers who, as Mr Herbert put it, are ‘I believe . . . responding to a signal that has been sent to them’. [Can’t imagine where he might be suggesting that could be coming from. . . .]
So here are the pressures to ‘concrete over the green belt’, Mr Mulholland. Not produced by Leeds Labour Council, as you would like to have people believe, but by your own Tory/LibDem coalition’s policies – pressures deep in the NPPF and its requirements themselves. Don’t take our word for it – listen to your friends on the Tory benches.
We trust our LibDem MP listened carefully to the debate. It should dispel some of his obvious misunderstandings.