5 September 2011

Is the National Trust being hysterical?

Who do you think should determine what local need are, the people who live there or those that just visit?

At present the National Trust and others are waging a campaign against the governments ‘National Planning Policy Framework’ (NPPF), they seem to think that it will allow developers to take advantage of naive country folk and build new housing estates all over their green fields.  From what I’ve seen of reactions to proposals for incinerator, wind farms etc they are quite capable of protecting their neighbourhood.

That’s not to say that the NPPF is perfect, whilst Greenbelt, and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are specifically mentioned in the plan, agricultural land isn’t and if a community doesn’t have a clear development plan then there is a presumption that development will be allowed. But should the plan be opposed because some local authorities have been lax in drawing up a development plan? Surely what should happen is that the presumption to develop should not come into force for a period of time that allows local authorities to complete their plans.

Northampton, jointly with Daventry and Towcester have put together a Local Development Scheme, which would seem to meet the requirements, though I’m no expert. However, what seems less certain is whether local authority plans will over-ride those of local communities. Even Wootton & East Hunsbury Parish Council, which is a front runner in local democracy, is not sure how much the views of its residents, as express through a Neighbourhood Plan, will be heeded.

The village where I grew up was strangled by a boundary outside which no building was allowed. With houses only being built on spaces within the village such as large gardens and farm yards the density increased spoiling the former character. And still there were not the homes that young people could afford to remain in the village. Giving a community the ability to decide what’s best for itself could have solved these problems.

There would seem to be much to iron out in the NPPF, however the National Trust appears to be taking the stance of shout first and talk later. The consultation on the draft plan has only part way through and I’m sure the NT and others can make a valuable contribution to the final plan, but banging the table is not going to get a sympathetic hearing. Depicting a Los Angeles sprawl as what could happen to our countryside is not helpful.  Let’s hear what the NT proposes as alternatives are rather than their hysteria.


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