What will be the Future for our Green and Pleasant Lands under the Tories?

6 Jun 2021
Blackdown Hills AONB near Upottery

Recent travels have shown many of us the pretty gruesome affect HS2 progress is wreaking on the Chilterns environment and on points further north.

But this will be just a localised side-show compared the nation-wide results from the combination of:

  • A. the compulsory government housing targets for councils and
  • B. the Planning Act 2021.

This is how it's expected to play out.

1. A council is required to draw up a Local Development Plan for approval by government planning inspectors.

2. The council is then presented with a mandatory housing target by the government (as has just happened to Dacorum).

3. The council will then have to "zone" ALL of the land areas within its jurisdiction as being either "Growth", or "Renewal" or "Protection" Zones.

The "Renewal Zones" are likely to be limited and to equate to current "brown field" sites.

AONB areas are designated as such by the government so we can assume they will be in the "Protected Zones". Ditto National Parks?

That effectively leaves the "Growth Zones" and these need to be sufficiently large to accommodate the bulk of the housing target the council is given.

The Green Belts don't seem to get a mention, but, as we well know, a council has the power to reduce its Green Belt if it feels it needs to do so, e.g. in order to find enough land to meet the housing targets it has had imposed upon it.

This is not a theoretical point. Dacorum Borough Council has done just that by proposing to "de-green" much of the Green Belt land around Tring and Berkhamsted. This is in their current Development Plan Proposals now out for consultation. It proposes a 55% increase in the number of homes for Tring and 22% for Berkhamsted.

In the Growth Zones, under the Planning Act as currently drafted, developers will automatically be granted outline planning permission.

In the Renewal Zones, permission "in principle" will be granted.

Standard Home Designs
Standardised Home Designs

The "Section 106" agreements whereby the cost of mitigating adverse consequences of developments, or of providing specific proposal-related infrastructure, will be replaced with a new levy.

A National Model Design Code is being proposed with a 10-point checklist for councils to use to check compliance of the homes within the developments.

All planning will be digitised.

Existing Permitted Development Rights are expected to be simultaneously relaxed and extended.

When Johnson stood at that lectern in Dudley in the West Midlands in June 2020, upon which were written the words "Build, Build, Build", he and his "powerful and determined [government]" meant what he said.

This new planning approach:

  1. reduces local involvement
  2. is driven by imposed government targets
  3. is unrelated to demonstrable local needs
  4. is a developer driven process

Elect in haste, repent at leisure!