5 Protecting Our Countryside

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The Ramblers’ objectives include “the protection and enhancement for the benefit of the public of the beauty of the countryside... including by encouraging the provision, preservation and extension of public access to land on foot”.

News of local developments

There are many local planning issues in which our members are involved. Here is news of a couple of them. We are always looking for new volunteers to help keep track of developments affecting the countryside and the footpath network.

Radlett Strategic Rail Freight Interchange - there is still no resolution, but St Albans Access Forum are trying to make the most of it should it happen. But now there is a new twist in the tale. Will the whole area be used for housing? See Phil Escritt's reports (Stile Dec 17 & 18)

Greenways - these were envisaged as off-road routes for use by people of all abilities on foot, bike or horseback, connecting people to facilities and open spaces in and around towns and to the countryside. Chris Beney put the case for more of them (Stile June 20)


How the planning system can help us

In Hertfordshire and North Middlesex the main threat to the countryside arises from the pressure for development but this may also give opportunities for increased access.  This development is controlled by the planning system.

Ramblers volunteers need to ensure that the plans protect rights of way, open space and access. District Footpaths Secretaries often are a good source of information on developments within their own boroughs and districts – see Rights of Way page to contact them.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) revised in July 2018 is particularly relevant to our work. One of its key principles is that planning authorities should actively manage patterns of growth to make the fullest possible use of public transport, walking and cycling. In Section 8 -Promoting healthy and safe communities, paragrah 91 calls for "easy pedestrian and cycle connections", and paragraph 98 says "Planning policies and decisions should protect and enhance public rights of way and access, including taking opportunities to provide better facilities for users, for example by adding links to existing rights of way networks including National Trails".  In Section 9 on Promoting sustainable transport, paragraph 110 recommends "applications for development should give priority first to pedestrian and cycle movements". Local plans should therefore support claims for improvements in rights of way.

We need more volunteers in this area to check and respond to local planning applications. Phil Escritt explains in this June 19 Stile article how improvements to the footpath network can be achieved through the planning system.


Local planning: Strategic Policies

Planning authorities are required to draw up development plans in accordance with the NPPF and (for London Boroughs) the Mayor’s London Plan. Planning law requires that applications for planning permission must be decided in accordance with these development plans. Local planning authorities have to consult on these development plans, so Ramblers volunteers have the chance to check that these plans reflect the key policies within the NPPF which protect rights of way, open space and access.

In Hertfordshire there are 10 district or borough councils which are the planning authorities. Hertfordshire Local Authorities are at different stages in developing their strategic plans.  A few have completed this task.  Many are still preparing them and relying on very old plans.  For details see individual council websites. Over 80% of Hertfordshire is undeveloped. 60% of the county is Green Belt and a further 10% is the Chilterns AONB leaving 30% relatively unprotected (source CPRE article in recent Stile). There is massive pressure from developers and the Green Belt is being eroded.

Hertfordshire Parish Councils frequently comment on planning applications and can be useful allies in protecting the countryside and obtaining new access.  Under the NPPF parishes can make neighbourhood plans which set planning policies and can  grant planning permission for specific developments which accord with these policies.  Contact details for the parishes in Hertfordshire can be found on the Hertfordshire website.

Our London Boroughs’ plans can be found on their websites (The Enfield Plan: Core Strategy 2010-2025, Barnet’s Local Plan: Core Strategy September 2012 and Haringey’s Local Plan: Strategic Policies 2013 – 2026). These Boroughs have extensive Green Belt areas (28% of Barnet and over a third of Enfield) in addition to other large areas of parks and open spaces (25% of Haringey).


The Campaign to Protect Rural England

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) is one of the leading organisations protecting the countryside and useful practical advice and information can be found on its national website.  More detailed information about Hertfordshire with their comments on local plans can be found on the CPRE Hertfordshire website