Friday, February 19, 2016

Rural Planning Review

One, if not the main purpose of this Blog  is to encourage people to engage with the planning system.   The Government is currently carrying out a consultation on planning in rural areas,  found at the following link

Unfortunately,  the Campaign for Real Farming, the Soil Association,  Forum for the Future,   Landworkers Alliance,  Community Supported Agriculture are not on the list of consultees. If the response to this consultation is to show that there is an appetite for what Colin Tudge would describe as “enlightened agriculture" there needs to be a substantial debate amongst that fraternity to explain why the countryside cannot continue to be a playground for the rich.   The consultation is based on  an assumption that there should be less regulation in terms of the use of land and buildings which would enable  rural communities and economies to flourish.

Those responding to this consultation might consider  pointing out that there is a need for mechanisms to enable land to be made at affordable prices (i.e. genuinely related to productivity and not investment) just as affordable housing has become part of planning controls.   Any mechanism for providing affordable land should include a mechanism for providing associated housing (see earlier blogs that explain how planning conditions or obligations can be used when permitting housing on the edge of towns and villages).  Rather than  supporting residential conversions of agricultural buildings in locations very unsuitable to housing, these could be an invaluable resource for rural businesses including food processing and distribution.   Having  introduced the  “presumption in favour of sustainable development" into the National Planning Policy Framework,  this has not, to my knowledge, been applied to agricultural developments. Unlike the earlier Productivity Plan issued by the Treasury and Defra,  this latest consultation includes the Communities Secretary, Greg Clark. In these circumstances, replies the consultation can usefully refer to the NPPF;  the 'presumption', paras 160 and 161,  the support for Garden City principles (which included market gardening) and the benefits of local food systems in respect of carbon reduction and health/well-being.

All these changes imply either more regulation or a different interpretation of existing policy than the Government is used to. If the consultation is ignored by those interested in agro-ecology and local food systems then we only have ourselves to blame if the Government continues with its current policies.

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