Thursday, 17 February 2011

In which the CPRE loses the plot....

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) used to be a pretty conservative organisation - it understood the rhythm of England better than more urban, 'in-your-face' environmental organisations and did much good as a result. However, it appears to have succumbed to an unholy alliance of BANANAs* and eco-loons:

"Many councils are currently facing hard financial choices.  In these circumstances it will be very tempting to seek to fill shrinking coffers by permitting any development, regardless of its environmental impact. But decisions based solely on money, rather than on whether proposed development is appropriate and sustainable, could be hugely damaging.  It could also undermine the fundamental principle that planning decisions should be taken in the public interest, taking account of land use consequences.”

Not only does this argument completely miss the point - planning committees and the local councillors that serve on them simply aren't going to "permit any development" - not and get re-elected. It beats me quite what the CPRE is after here - their press release reads like a NIMBY manifesto:

Rather than focusing on delivering housing numbers alone, the Government should also be emphasising the need for well designed and appropriately located new homes in high quality, thriving neighbourhoods.

Firstly - as anyone who has been listening to the government on housing will know - the main drivers of 'housing numbers', the Regional Spatial Strategies (which for some unknown reason CPRE supported) have been scrapped. However, the ability to develop is being pushed right the way down to local communities themselves - rural places with housing need included. What CPRE seems to want is for directed planning - the system that has failed to meet housing need and especially the housing needs of poorer people in rural areas.

In Cullingworth - which isn't exactly the deepest of deep rural areas - I spend much time seeking to bend the daft planning rules beloved of CPRE and its NIMBY supporters so as to allow small scale, sensitive housing development. And a small incentive for seeing housing developed will go a long way to getting these sorts of development underway. What won't happen is that large estates will get built on green field sites simply because there's a cash incentive. If these developments take place, it will be in the face of local opposition from residents and the Councillors they elect.


*BANANA - 'build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone'


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