New national planning rules give too much control to developers and will make it more difficult to protect Sussex’s countryside, campaigners have warned.
The National Planning Policy Framework, which was introduced in March 2012 to simplify guidance, has been dubbed a ‘developer’s charter’ by its critics.
A revised NPPF was published last week, with ministers claiming the changes would make it easier for councils to challenge poor quality and unattractive development and give communities a greater say about how developments should look and feel.
However the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s Sussex branch has spoken out against the new guidelines.
Campaigners believe the county, especially rural parts of Sussex, face an unprecedented threat due to a mistaken belief by the Government that local councils are to blame for housing shortages rather than developers.
They say under the new guidelines local authorities are in danger of losing control over planning completely if they fail to pass a ‘housing delivery test’.
The number of new dwellings they have to deliver to pass this test is based on a new standard method for assessing housing need which they say would force many Sussex councils to set unattainably high targets either immediately or in the near future.
Kia Trainor, CPRE Sussex director, said: “The new housing delivery test will force councils to keep allocating more green field sites when developers do not build homes quickly enough.
“It will put our countryside at risk and leave local communities frustrated and angry.”
CPRE Sussex says it is also concerned that the new NPPF gives too much control to developers, fails to curb speculative development in the countryside or land banking and the problem of empty homes.
The campaign is also warning that the rules contain a new loophole which could soon spell the end for many of the county’s neighbourhood plans.
Roger Smith, CPRE Sussex trustee, added: “The Government’s misdirected new guidelines are indicative of the extent to which developers are able to influence planning policies,
“Councils continue to be blamed when developers under-deliver against targets, and the ‘presumption in favour’ is invoked to enable these same developers to impose development on communities.
“This tilted balance is wrong for our communities, for people needing affordable homes and for the natural environment and our wildlife.”
The Government argues a new methodology for calculating housing aims to deliver more homes in the places where they are most needed, based on factors including the affordability of existing homes for people on lower and medium incomes.
Meanwhile from November 2018 councils will have to undergo a housing delivery test focused on driving up the number of homes actually delivered in their area, rather than how many are planned for.
James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for housing, communities and local government, said: “Fundamental to building the homes our country needs is ensuring that our planning system is fit for the future.
“This revised planning framework sets out our vision of a planning system that delivers the homes we need.
“I am clear that quantity must never compromise the quality of what is built, and this is reflected in the new rules.
“We have listened to the tens of thousands of people who told us their views, making this a shared strategy for development in England.”
The changes form part of the Government’s plans to boost national housebuilding to 300,000 new homes a year.