Planning default 'shouldn't be yes'
A default "yes" to development should be removed from the Government's controversial planning reforms, a committee of MPs has said.
Proposed changes to the planning system - which slim down more than 1,000 pages of policy to just 52 - appear to put more emphasis on economic growth than the environment or society, the Communities and Local Government Committee said.
The current draft of the new rules carries the risk of the planning system being used to implement poorly planned or unsustainable development, said a report into the draft national planning policy framework by the MPs.
The Government says the changes to simplify the planning system, which focus on a "presumption in favour of sustainable development", are needed to boost growth, give communities more say in their local area and protect the environment.
But the draft reforms have provoked a storm of protest, including from major countryside groups such as the National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England, amid concerns they could lead to a return to urban sprawl and damaging development.
The plans include a presumption in favour of sustainable development, which Prime Minister David Cameron has said includes environmental and social dimensions as well as economic elements, to support "sustainable economic growth". And it demands that the default answer to planning proposals is "yes" - except where that would compromise sustainable development.
Clive Betts, the committee's chairman, said: "The way the framework is drafted currently gives the impression that greater emphasis should be given in planning decisions to economic growth.
"This undermines the equally important environmental and social elements of the planning system. As currently drafted, the 'default yes' to development also carries the risk of the planning system being used to implement unsustainable development."
Fiona Reynolds, director-general of the National Trust, said the committee's report provided "irresistible pressure" on ministers to improve the reforms. "Along with nearly 230,000 people who signed our petition against the changes, the select committee has identified the clear changes that need to be made to the draft national planning policy framework so that it delivers a planning system that balances social and environmental needs with those of the economy."
Planning Minister Greg Clark said he had invited the committee to make specific suggestions on the draft framework and was grateful for "the practical and measured way they have approached the exercise. The Government will consider carefully each of the suggestions that have been made, along with all responses to the consultation."