Why CPRE is promoting neighbourhood planning with government funding

CPRE is deeply unhappy with some aspects of government policy on housing and planning. As the housing and planning bill goes through Parliament and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is revised, we will be saying a lot about issues such as the right to buy and the so-called delivery test (which will force local authorities to release more land if those who have planning permission decide to build at their usual glacial pace).

So it is good to be able to reiterate CPRE’s support for neighbourhood planning, an important and successful policy. We are delighted to be working with ACRE (Action for Communities in Rural England) on a government-funded project to promote it. We aim to bust myths, raise awareness in areas where relatively few parishes have embraced neighbourhood planning, and encourage stalled groups to complete their plans.

We are so enthusiastic about neighbourhood planning that we want the housing and planning bill amended to give a right of appeal against developments that conflict with a neighbourhood plan. Neighbourhood planning was introduced partly in the belief that if communities had responsibility for planning their future, they would embrace development rather than oppose it, and the evidence is that this has happened: rural parishes that have agreed a neighbourhood plan have opted for higher housing numbers than previously required.

But if it becomes apparent that neighbourhood plans can be swept aside and development imposed in spite of them, as has happened a number of times, it will become much harder to volunteer their time to develop a plan. Nick Herbert MP made a good case for a neighbourhood right of appeal in the Commons debate on the Bill, and I hope the Government will support it.

Back to our project with ACRE, I am aware that some think that charities should not accept government funding. The free market fundamentalists at the Institute of Economic Affairs have been particularly outspoken in attacking what they call ‘sock puppet charities’.

CPRE has only received government funding twice in the last ten and more years, both times to promote neighbourhood planning.

In the early days of the Coalition we delivered (with the National Association of Local Councils) a large project under the Supporting Neighbourhoods and Communities in Planning programme. On that occasion, to allay Ministers’ concerns that we might use the money for campaigning, we undertook not to “use any money from CLG [the Department for Communities and Local Government] to support campaigns to prevent sustainable development in rural areas”.

CPRE members were equally worried that accepting government money might blunt our campaigning zeal, so we declared: “CPRE is a campaigning organisation and we will continue to campaign vigorously, nationally and at branch level, in defence of the countryside and a planning system that gives proper regard to environmental and social considerations, as well as to economic growth… We believe that it is sometimes acceptable to say ‘no’ to development, and we hope that the Government shares this belief. Regardless of whether our bid is successful, therefore, we will continue to campaign for an NPPF that facilitates sustainable growth and refuses development that may be financially beneficial in the short term but is environmentally or socially detrimental.”

Given the fierceness of the campaign on the NPPF, I was glad that we made clear both that we would not use public money to campaign and that it would not influence our campaigning.

This time round, I wrote to Brandon Lewis, housing and planning minister to thank him for approving our bid and to make clear that:

  • “CPRE will continue to campaign vigorously in defence of the English countryside and a planning system that gives proper regard to environmental and social considerations, as well as to economic growth. This will, from time to time, mean criticising Government policies;
  • “we will account for the CLG neighbourhood planning work separately, and will not use any CLG money on our campaigning activities.”

The aim in the coming months is to deliver a first rate programme to promote neighbourhood planning and, at the same time (but using our own resources) to do all we can to improve the housing and planning bill and the NPPF. The first aim is eminently achievable. The second will be hard, but it is a fight worth having.

2 Responses to “Why CPRE is promoting neighbourhood planning with government funding”

  1. 1 Grope_of_Big_Horn (@Grope_of_Big) January 27, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    “CPRE has only received government funding twice in the last ten and more years”
    Twice too many in my view. And CPRE still endorses agricultural subsidies that make us wetter and fatter and even get awarded to grouse hunting land. You also support the VED exemption for farm vehicles ( hellooo – it’s meant to be emissions based, not on use of public roads ), cheap red diesel and exemption from business rates for agricultural buildings.
    Hand in glove with your land-owning mates, you are.

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