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Did you know… we’re part of the Better Planning Coalition?

14th October 2023

The Better Planning Coalition represents over 30 organisations across the environment, housing, planning, heritage and transport sectors with one common goal: a planning system fit for climate, nature, and people. The coalition was formed back in 2021 to campaign for the biggest upgrade to the planning rules for over a generation and this includes the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill as well as the review of the National Planning Policy Framework. Thousands of CPRE members and supporters are celebrating a recent win for local communities as the National Development Management Policy scrutiny amendment was passed in the House of Lords in September 2023.

As part of the Better Planning Coalition we worked with a variety of organisations to forge an alternative ‘Vision for planning’ in response to the government’s Planning White Paper, published in August 2020. Commenting on the joint vision at its launch, the former deputy chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity said:

“We’re calling on the government to plan back better and work with us to develop a planning system that puts people, and tackling the climate and ecological emergencies, at its heart. We all deserve a home we can genuinely afford to live in, and to have a say in shaping the communities around us. And for over 70 years, a toolbox has been in place to make sure that can happen: the planning system. But as things stand, under the government’s current proposals, the opportunity to influence what happens and where in our communities would be halved.

‘The government announced a welcome revision of its housing numbers ‘algorithm’. However, this was only one small part of a range of potentially damaging proposals put forward by the government. That’s why we’re calling on Ministers to take an equally pragmatic approach to improving policies relating to community voice, affordable homes and access to green spaces. Together, we can develop a planning system fit for the 21st century.”

What is the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill?

The government is committed to levelling up across the country, building more homes to increase home ownership, empowering communities to make better places, restoring local pride and regenerating towns and cities. The February 2022 Levelling Up White Paper reiterated the government’s commitment to making improvements to the planning system to achieve this, by giving communities a stronger say over where homes are built and what they look like. The Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill (the Bill) which is before Parliament will put the foundations in place for delivering this by creating a genuinely plan-led system with a stronger voice for communities. It will ensure greater provision of community infrastructure by developers, mandate that beautiful new development meets clear design standards that reflect community views, and enhance protections for our precious environmental and heritage assets.

Scrutiny amendment passed in the House of Lords

In September 2023 the National Development Management Policies scrutiny amendment was passed through Lords which ensures both the public and parliament have a say on any new national planning policy created by the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. This new type of national planning policy has been a concern since its introduction and represents a possible threat to local democracy. The centralisation of power had the potential to strip local communities of their say on major planning issues. These are issues that affect all of us including housing, wildlife to the Green Belt that we’ve campaigned so hard to protect. 

We were thrilled when thanks to the campaigning of CPRE members and supporters alongside the other members of the Better Planning Coalition, the new amendment in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill was passed which includes public and parliamentary scrutiny in the process of creating any new National Development Management Policies. This means that politicians and local communities will be able to challenge top-down decisions and have their say about the planning in their local area. 

In addition, the Secretary of State for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities provided small amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework which come under ‘Meeting the challenge of climate change, flooding and coastal change’. These updates should help decision-makers dealing with proposals to use and improve existing renewable energy sites as well as make all parties aware of the advantages of doing so. In particular, the increase in accepted routes to achieve the development of Wind Turbine sites should make the process more flexible and in turn, increase wind farms producing renewable or low-carbon energy.

The Better Planning Coalition also had other amendments that are of huge importance to the countryside voted through in recent months. These included:

  • An amendment to ensure that all new homes support the health of their residents
  • An amendment requiring ‘for sufficient social rent housing’ in every local area
  • An amendment that ensures planning decision-takers, from the Secretary of State to a local planning committee, have special regard to the UK’s legally binding net-zero emissions target

We all have a part to play in keeping our wildlife and their habitats thriving for the next generation. These types of issues deeply affect the countryside and those living within it. The changes made here in September show what a positive influence we can have when we work together for a common cause.

If you are interested in helping us protect and celebrate the Surrey Countryside you can discover how to get involved locally here.