The NPPF Debate is going to Cost Time & Money to the Development Industry

‘Politics should not be left to politicians alone. Politicians need fans and supporters in the general public, otherwise keen developers with fancy ideas and prospects may lead them astray. Sustainable spatial planning and development widen the scope for public participation – empowering the citizens, promoting transparency and creating incentives for political innovation. The citizens’ right of information and participation is also an important aspect of the social dimension of sustainable development. Politicians and should act complementary – not independently. The participation of civil servants in politics is crucial. They give politicians expert advice on political issues, and they create meeting places and processes for political discussions and decisions, etc.’

Audun MOFLAG 2005

Member of the Committee of the Senior Officials of the CEMAT, Senior Adviser of the Department for Regional Planning, Ministry of the Environment

The concession by Greg Clark to talk to campaigners about the NPPF consultation has been usurped by George Osborne and Eric Pickles. In doing so it reduces the ideals of the Localism Bill to being an absolute nonsense.

As the NPPF progresses through what can no longer be considered a true consultation, the Governments’ commitment to the construction industry is unashamedly obvious.   But herein lies the paradox, in refusing to engage with even the more moderate voices (who want an NPPF but using definitions and referral to legally binding convention text, that could enable the NPPF to be at the very least usable), it is now going to cost a huge amount of time and money to the development sector itself, whose incumbent umbrella associations are busy helping to fragment society by way of fierce vitriol against any who question the NPPF, (many of whom are not anti NPPF, but anti the current draft – a huge difference).

There is no way that England can turn its back on the European Landscape Convention, Aalborg treaty and other legislative powers from Europe, which Scotland and Wales have embraced. Any minister taking a lazy pseudo statesmanlike stance by catering to the huge ‘anti European’ voice found in English media and wider society by refusing to acknowledge the presence of the hugely useful tools in progressing planning, with sustainable development at its core from within Europe, is liable to simply remove England from its position in world politics. Make no mistake, the badly written NPPF and the incumbent ‘development’ associations who are championing it alongside the government are using the same language used by lesser developing nations on the African or South American continents.

The stance now taken by the government has killed any possible chance of realising ‘Big Society’ ideals. There is no way that relinquished power to communities is viable when it is clear that unless it directly conforms with a Minister’s whims and entrenched opinion based on ancient macro economic textbooks or the musings of overpaid city based thinktankers’, the powers will not be granted.

All progression towards implementing ‘sustainable development’ is dead. The UK government now clearly desire to progress on a very loose definition, which in turn will harm more progressive governments who are able to enforce good governance against industry sectors (which if unregulated would do serious damage to the environment), by providing those industries with a case study to use in lobbying.

Sustainable development could have, alongside ecosystem services, enabled an economic boost to the England and the UK. The research and development of these ideals is so far advanced that the position taken by the government with regards the NPPF will wipe clean any vestige of respect for the UK and its reputation on the international stage in relation to all environmental & sustainable issues.

Government rhetoric has split apart and irrevocably damaged the land management sector. The hugely powerful NGOs were already facing problems with the forthcoming localism agenda and were working hard to define their roles based on European Landscape Convention (ELC) ideals as it started to infiltrate policy making. Now they will have to form coalitions to help fight against a single threat to the countryside and urban green space, when the whole landscape is facing its largest threats ever by way pests, disease and climate change.

One significant NGO stands out from the pack and in doing so further fragments both campaigns and the wider physical landscape. The Woodland Trust is determined to focus solely on ancient woodland. Any lack of a cohesive and integrated campaign will damage all others involved.

The voice of the public; as championed by the Save Our Woods group and others (including the newly formed ‘Campaign Against Sprawl’) is in line with European ideals ratified in the UK and further it supports the practitioners, particularly the planners as well as placing ‘sustainable’ in its true sense at the forefront of discussion. Not only should this assist the UK government in creating a glossary which would allow the NPPF to be of worth, but it translates the issues back to the people to whom the landscape belongs – Everyone including developers.


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