The Ramblers has joined other environment and access charities in a warning that proposed reforms to speed up the planning process published by the government today could put wildlife, heritage and green open spaces at risk, unless critical environmental rules are maintained and strengthened.
The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government has today released Planning for the Future, setting out proposals to update the planning process, including plans to designate land into one of three categories: growth, renewal and protected. Developers will have ‘automatic’ permission to build land designated for growth.
Environment groups are concerned the proposed zone system risks over-simplifying the process and weakening environmental protection measures, and say planning needs to take into account site-specific environmental knowledge. For example, some brownfield sites that could be earmarked as a priority for development are among our most important wildlife havens.
Gemma Cantelo, head of policy and advocacy for the Ramblers, said:
“The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated just how vital access to nature is to our health and happiness - and how important our precious green spaces are to communities. Our planning system should drive the creation of greener and healthier places, not undermine them. The places we live should give people easy access to nature-rich green spaces from their doorsteps, put walking and active travel first, and enhance our beautiful landscapes for future generations. That means putting people and nature at the heart of the planning system.”
The planning system is not the main cause of development delays or affordable housing shortfalls - 90% of applications are approved by local planning authorities, but developers often delay building.
The nature and access charities are urging the government to ensure that strengthened environmental protections and making community participation are central to any planning reforms - vital for our struggling natural world and a green recovery, as well as for our health and wellbeing.
Read the full statement by Wildlife and Countryside Link.
The Ramblers will be responding to the Planning for the Future consultation by 29 October 2020. If you would like to have your say, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.