Countryside group names and shames bad planning councils

Countryside group the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has published a list of those councils 'wasting' the countryside by failing to make use of brownfield land or who are building at such low densities as to encourage urban sprawl.

The name and shame campaign comes only days after the Government published new housing and planning proposals which campaigners fear could encourage more development on greenbelt land (see related story).

It examines the land-use data for 354 councils during the 1990s highlighting the 35 who perform worst on both housing density and land recycling.

Nineteen of the worst 35 – including Mid Devon, Alnwick, Wansbeck, South Holland, Waveney, and Wear Valley – are rural councils, while the remaining 16 cover larger towns and cities, including North Lincolnshire, Stevenage, Rugby, Kingston-upon-Hull, Redditch, Stockton-on-Tees, Great Yarmouth and Carlisle.

In addition, it praises the top 10 performing councils such as Oxford, Cheltenham, Nottingham, Brighton, Reading and Exeter, for keeping housing density and land recycling high.

The CPRE is a big critic of the new government proposals which would see the national planning policy on housing – PPG3 – changed to a market-, and demand-led system.

The group claims that PPG3 has led to improvements in densities at which new housing is built and in the proportion of new homes built on previously developed land, but that this would be reversed under new proposals.

“We have an excellent policy on planning for housing in PPG3,” said Kate Gordon CPRE’s planning officer. “The main problem has been that in some areas this policy isn’t being followed – and that’s what the government should be concentrating on.”

The government also announced details for its Affordable Rural Housing Commission, this week, to identify practical ways in which access to affordable housing for rural people can be improved.

Elinor Goodman, former political editor of Channel Four News, is chairing the Commission which will look at ways to deliver affordable housing while also taking account of the environmental qualities of rural areas and the higher unit costs of development.

By David Hopkins

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