Protecting Local Communities from Over-Development

Campaigners 'at the gateway' to the Yorkshire Dales fear the planning system is being weakened to make it easier to impose developments on local communities.

MPs, councillors and residents express concerns over planning and localism fears the bill could allow unwanted developments to be imposed on communities as Wharfedale group and Campaign to Protect Rural England speak out.

Campaigners 'at the gateway' to the Yorkshire Dales fear the planning system is being weakened to make it easier to impose developments on local communities.

Local residents, MPs and councillors have expressed widespread dismay at the news that the Localism Bill has had Clause 4 dealing with Third Party Right of Appeal over planning decisions withdrawn.

West Yorkshire-based Wharfedale and Airedale Review Development group (WARD) opposes unsustainable development which has a detrimental impact upon the infrastructure in the Wharfedale area of Yorkshire and met recently to discuss the impact of the bill.

And as the Localism Bill enters the House of Lords, rural champions the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has today expressed concerns that the bill in its current form will fail to deliver the government's commitment to empower local communities and deliver sustainable development.

Second Reading of the Localism Bill in the House of Lords takes place tomorrow.

Campaigners fear that unless the Lords can restore the original purpose of the planning reforms, and secure a fair and transparent system that delivers genuinely sustainable development, local people's voices will go unheard and environmentally damaging development will result.

Shaun Spiers, CEO of CPRE, told the WARD meeting:

"Over the past year we have become increasingly concerned that the planning system is being weakened to make it easier to impose developments on local communities, whatever they may want. That is the opposite of localism.

"CPRE will continue to fight for a system that enables everyone to work together to plan the future of our communities, not one that gives unequal power to developers and a disproportionate emphasis on economic growth as the principal aim of planning policy."

The CPRE wants the bill to:

* Reinforce the role of the planning system in securing development in the long-term public interest and safeguard the principle that planning permission should not be unduly influenced by financial considerations;

* Re-balance the appeals system by giving communities a limited right to challenge the approval of applications that go against locally agreed plans;

* Provide communities with a stronger system to protect assets of community value by including a first right of refusal for them as part of the 'community right to buy'; and

* Ensure that neighbourhood planning is open and accessible to the whole community and does not prioritise economic interests over environmental and social well-being.

This view was echoed by those present at the WARD meeting.

Stuart Andrew, Conservative MP for Pudsey, said,

"It is important that we use every piece of legislation at our disposal to help shape the future direction of our towns and villages and that this properly takes into account the demands of essential services whilst at the same time considers housing and employment for local people. I look forward to continued work with the WARD Group who I consider an exemplar of joint community working."

Leeds North West Liberal Democrat MP Greg Mulholland said:

"This is an issue that I and many others have campaigned hard on in Parliament, pushing for greater protection for local communities from unwanted developments. Whilst we do not oppose development outright in the area, it seems obvious that local communities are in the best position to make decisions on where development should and shouldn't go ahead."

Bradford East Liberal Democrat MP David Ward said:

"Too often development in one area is approved without due consideration being given to the impact on other communities."

WARD Chairman, David Ingham, said the group was not against all future development, only that which was demonstrably unsustainable. WARD's purpose was to review and endorse benevolent and beneficial developments and to resist those which are unsustainable and have a detrimental impact upon the local infrastructure.

Kathryn Jukes, of Directions Planning Consultancy, gave the meeting a summary of the future of planning and the impact of the Government's intention to devolve power to local communities via town and parish councils. It is hoped to involve local communities in future planning for their areas by allowing submission of Neighbourhood Development Plans involving town and parish councils. WARD members said that at first glance, this seems reasonable but Aireborough - which forms part of WARD's patch - has no parish council which places its community at an immediate disadvantage.

Guiseley and Rawdon Conservative councillor Graham Latty said:

"For too long development has savaged our townships ….. this has been exacerbated by similar development in areas to the west on the A65 which have brought traffic increases to the point of gridlock. We need committed local action to bring some common sense to the future development of our still green and pleasant area ….. WARD might be the spur which sets us on the right track. It certainly will not want for support from myself and my councillor colleagues."

Otley and Yeadon Liberal Democrat councillor Colin Campbell also condemned the practice of 'land banking' by developers, as illustrated by the number of planning applications already granted but not built.

The Coalition Government set out to radically reform the planning system to 'give neighbourhoods far more ability to determine the shape of the places in which they live' and 'to protect the environment' .

Guardian News