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. 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.
Last summer, the UK Government released its planning white paper, outlining ways in which it will seek to reform the planning system to increase house building across England. We have previously warned of the risk that planning reforms could have to paths and green spaces, local democracy and wildlife unless protections are strengthened.
To ensure the planning system results in creating the walkable, nature friendly, well designed, affordable homes and places of the future, we have joined a broad coalition of housing, planning, transport, environmental and heritage organisations to set six decisive tests to scrutinise the upcoming Planning Bill.
The six tests provide a scorecard using he government’s own wording in its Planning White Paper to critically assess whether its vision for planning will become a reality in the Planning Bill. A wide range of organisations such as CPRE - the countryside charity, the Wildlife Trust and the Ramblers and worked to develop these tests, which include:
- Local democracy: retain community participation in the planning process;
- Health: protect and expand access to paths, green spaces and prioritise active travel;
- Affordable homes: develop a strategy for affordable homes and give powers to councils to turn down developments which don’t deliver affordable housing;
- Climate emergency: ensure that local planning authorities are empowered to deliver climate-friendly developments;
- Nature: Protect and enhance nature in new developments;
- Heritage: protect heritage and designated landscapes from inappropriate development
Kate Conto, Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer for the Ramblers said: “The planning system is a powerful tool which can help us to create thriving, sustainable places. These tests provide the framework to track government progress towards creating a planning system fit for the future by judging each criteria red, amber or green at key legislative milestones. It is crucial that Ministers now change course in their proposed changes to planning and introduce a Bill that will move us closer to this vision, and not further away.”
Tom Platt, Ramblers’ Director of Advocacy and Engagement said: The last year has highlighted just how much we all value the simple pleasure of going for a walk in a local park or green space. But access to green spaces is far from equal. We've welcomed recent government commitments to getting more people walking, reducing obesity, cutting air pollution, tackling climate change, and creating a more equal society. But it's essential that we have a planning system that delivers on those ambitions by protecting and creating accessible green spaces and routes close to where people live. We urge the government to work with us to develop a gold-standard planning system that will deliver greener, more walkable and healthier places for everyone to enjoy.”
The government’s response to the Planning White Paper is expected imminently and will give an indication as to whether Ministers have heeded the concerns from this coalition of organisations.
Join our campaigns mailing today to find out how you can help us ensure that the places we live give people easy access to nature-rich green spaces from their doorsteps.