Memorandum by The Council for National
Parks (PGP 14)
PLANNING: DELIVERING A FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE
The Council for National Parks (CNP) welcomes
the opportunity to submit evidence to the Committee's inquiry
into the Government's proposals for the future of planning set
out in the Green Paper Planning: delivering a fundamental change.
CNP is the national charity that works to protect and enhance
the National Parks of England and Wales, and areas that merit
National Park status, and promote understanding and quiet enjoyment
of them for the benefit of all. CNP would like to draw the following
points to the Committee's attention.
1. The key role of the planning system is
to deliver sustainable development and effective protection of
the countryside. The proposals, as drafted, will not achieve this.
CNP considers that the fundamental purpose of the planning system
to "regulate the use of land in the public interest"
remains valid and needs to be made much clearer in any subsequent
legislation, statements or guidance. This purpose is particularly
important in National Parks, which are nationally designated in
the public interest.
2. It is essential that the follow-ups to
the Green Paper deliver the commitment made by Sally Keeble MP
to "create a better, faster and fairer planning system with
sustainability at its heart".
CNP has asked the Department to ensure that sustainable development
is placed at the heart of the planning system. This could be achieved
by the new Planning Acts introducing an additional purpose/duty
of the planning system to further the achievement of sustainable
development. This means equal emphasis being given to economic,
social and environmental progress. The consultation document often
puts economic before social and environmental progress, which
does not accord with the principles of sustainable development.
For example, paragraph 1.6 singles out the interests of business,
when all the principles discussed apply equally to the public
and to other participants in the planning system.
3. The links between appropriate economic
development and environmental quality are crucial and have largely
been forgotten in the consultation document. It is important to
environmental constraints = high
quality landscapes = economic opportunities.
National Parks offer many examples of this and
the inter-relationship between National Park statutory purposes
and the duty
on National Park Authorities (NPAs) to seek to foster the social
and economic well-being of their local communities in ways which
are compatible with the pursuit of National Park purposes
is a good example. A further example is the recent research by
the National Trust
which quantified the direct link between a high quality environment
and the economy. In the South West, the tourism and leisure sectors
were estimated to sustain 225,000 jobs, which is equivalent to
around 10 per cent of the regional economy, with 43 per cent of
all tourism related employment in the South West motivated by
its high quality environment (National Parks cover a significant
percentage of the South West Region).
4. National Park purposes
need to be given much more explicit recognition by the Department
when it considers and plans for changes to the planning system.
As sole land use planning authorities for their areas, NPAs cover
7.6 per cent of England. CNP welcomes the reference in paragraph
3.3 of the consultation document to the role that planning has
played in helping preserve National Parks. CNP further welcomes
the recognition in paragraph 4.56 that National Parks have "enjoyed
the highest protection"
and urges the continuation of this in any new or updated guidance.
5. CNP suggests that the three cornerstones
of planning in National Parks (conservation, sustainability and
high quality design) are given a much higher profile in the shaping
and delivery of any new planning system. Specifically, CNP considers
that conservation should be added as one of the clear objectives
which planning authorities will be required to achieve, as set
out in paragraph 4.10. This is crucial if the highest status of
protection of National Parks is to be delivered in practice.
6. The review of national policy statements
is welcome but adequate time needs to be allowed for consultation
and a new mechanism is needed for consultation on national policy
statements (eg a Public Examination type mechanism) as the current
process is not very publicly transparent or accessible. For example,
CNP understands that the Department has embarked upon a fast-track
review of PPG7 and has met certain interest groups to help inform
its initial thinking. It is important that the Department casts
its consultation nets more widely at formative stages on key PPGs
and CNP would hope that a commitment to this end is included in
the Department's follow ups to this consultation.
7. CNP welcomes the commitment in paragraph
4.62 of the consultation document to review MPG1 and supports
the more overarching role that would be given to this within the
mineral planning system. It is important that the rigorous test
for minerals developments in National Parks currently set out
in MPG6 is included in the new MPG1.
8. NPAs must be more closely integrated
into regional structuresNPAs must be represented at the
regional level as of right and should have equivalent rights of
participation in regional assemblies (or in whatever form of regional
government is created following the regional government White
Paper) to other LPAs. National Parks are nationally designated
for certain reasons,
which have regional and spatial consequences and which need full
consideration by and integration with any new regional policy
and/or decision-making bodies. The Report of the 1991 National
Parks Review Panel (see below) concluded that:
"We endorsed . . . the need for national
park authorities to have a formal role in the preparation of draft
[regional] guidanceand one which is independent of the
county and district councils.
The park authorities' task must be to ensure
that the strategic and national significance of the parks is fully
reflected in regional guidance".
CNP has urged the Department to introduce a
mechanism to ensure that the NPAs are able to fulfil this task.
CNP does not consider that giving the NPAs the status of statutory
consultee on the preparation of Regional Spatial Strategies will
be adequate to achieve this role.
9. The strategic planning role of NPAs is
crucial and must be retained. This responsibility was vested in
all NPAs as recently as 1995 so it seems odd that strategic planning
powers should now be removed, particularly without any evidence
to suggest why NPAs have not benefited from these powers. The
Government made it clear in 1995 that "A National Park Authority
will be the strategic land-use planning authority for its area".
This was in response to the last major review of National Parks
which concluded that NPAs "must play a fuller statutory role
in the new structure plan process". The Panel also considered
that "An effective forward planning process is essential
to provide a firm basis for development control decisions in the
10. Further thought should be given to the
best way to achieve this (perhaps through the preparation of a
Park-wide Unitary Development Plan, as in the Welsh National Parks).
CNP has advised the Department to liaise with colleagues in DEFRA
on the emerging conclusions from DEFRA's National Parks Review
of 2001, as this may contain some pertinent recommendations on
the strategic planning role of National Parks.
11. As there will be a significant gap between
the proposed Regional Spatial Strategies and Local Development
Frameworks, there will clearly be a need for sub-regional strategies/planning.
The key point here is for NPAs to be fully involved at the sub-regional
level and in identifying and preparing any sub-regional strategies
affecting the National Parks. This is another important tool for
achieving the highest status of protection referred to above.
12. CNP welcomes the clarification in paragraph
4.38 of the consultation document that NPAs will continue to be
responsible for minerals and waste planning (planning policy and
development control). CNP has asked the Department to clarify
that NPAs will include minerals and waste policies in their Statement
of Core Policies.
13. The Local Development Framework should
be renamed the Local Sustainable Development Framework. This would
help send the right message to developers and other participants
in the planning process.
14. In National Parks, the National Park
Management Plan sets the vision and the strategy for the Park
(". . . the role of the Plans as strategic documents outlining
CNP welcomes the reference in paragraph 4.11 of the consultation
document that "in National Parks . . . ., the statutory management
plan will be relevant" in determining the statement of core
policies. It is important that the Department issues guidance
to LPAs preparing community strategies in National Parks (as some
National Parks will be covered by several community strategies).
15. This guidance should:
Clarify the relationship between
the National Park Management Plan and the community strategy(ies),
making clear that the National Park Management Plan sets the overarching
framework for their preparation;
Recognise that the National Park
Management Plan cannot substitute entirely for the community strategy
because it does not cover all areas that the strategy does;
Reiterate that LPAs have a statutory
to have regard to National Park statutory purposes when preparing
their community strategies. This duty should be monitored to ensure
that it is properly observed.
16. CNP agrees that Local Development Frameworks
should be prepared individually by NPAs and should be done on
a Park-wide basis (paragraph 4.17). This will ensure a consistent
policy approach to land-use planning across the National Park.
Several Local Development Frameworks per Park would lead to an
inconsistent approach and an unnecessarily complex and confusing
land-use planning framework. Joint preparation could lead to public
confusion and delay.
17. Park-wide LDFs would result in a more
coherent and holistic approach being applied, which is vital for
the consistent delivery of National Park purposes. This Park-wide
approach was introduced for Local Plans in all National Parks
because the previous system of joint local plans was found not
to work satisfactorily for National Parks.
18. CNP is concerned about the discretionary
nature of the proposed Action Plans. The Government has recently
"The Government has announced measures to
modernise the planning system. These include more explicit national
policy statements on the need for projects of national importance
such as airports and the criteria for site selection and changes
in public inquiry procedures. The Government remains committed
to the plan-led system of development. This provides the essential
framework for rational and consistent planning decisions, and
plays a vital role in promoting development and growth which respects
the environment. But if the plan-led system is to work there must
be plans which cover all parts of the country and an effective
system to keep those plans up to date".
This reinforces the need for comprehensiveness
of plan cover, which CNP is concerned would not be forthcoming
unless stronger guidance is given to LPAs on the preparation of
Action Plans. A loss of comprehensive plan cover would be likely
to lead to greater delay in the system as there would be greater
uncertainty about what development may be appropriate/acceptable
in particular locations.
19. CNP welcomes the opportunity to improve
pre-application discussions as a result of the Green Paper. This
is important as influencing the nature and location of development
at the earliest stage possible will generally result in higher
quality development and consequently in a greater proportion of
planning applications being approved. A good example of this is
the work done by Vodafone's National Parks Project Group which
is responsible for the company's telecommunications network development
in National Parks. Guidance to developers on pre-application discussions
should emphasise the need for a strategic approach in National
Parks, which maximises the use of innovative designs and avoids
the most sensitive sites.
20. Resources will need to be provided to
ensure that whatever proposals are eventually decided upon, that
NPAs are sufficiently resourced to deliver them, given the current
range of pressures on NPA budgets.
21. CNP is concerned at the proposed reduction
in the number of statutory consultees. It is essential that statutory
bodies that are uniquely placed to offer specialist or technical
advice on the fulfilment of National Park purposes retain their
status as a statutory consultee (for example English Nature on
wildlife and English Heritage on cultural heritage, both explicit
parts of the first National Park statutory purpose). CNP is also
concerned at the proposed severance of statutory consultation
links with parish councils. These links are particularly important
in nationally designated areas such as National Parks, as they
help local people input their views into the decision-making process.
22. The proposed delegation of 90 per cent
of all planning applications to officers is too high in National
Parks. CNP has two principal concerns about this proposal:
In National Parks, a greater number
of applications are likely to be controversial because of the
sensitivity of the environment. It is therefore more appropriate
that NPA members make the most difficult judgements on such applications,
which will often require application of complex policies, rather
than technical officers. NPAs estimate that 70 per cent would
be a more appropriate and achievable target.
Delegation to officers inevitably
reduces the public's ability to participate in the decision-making
process. This proposal would therefore seem to conflict with the
Department's desire to make the system more transparent and publicly
accessible. For example, in paragraph 1.3 the consultation document
states, "That is why we need a planning system that fully
engages people in shaping the future of their communities and
local economies". In paragraph 1.5 the consultation document
states, "All parts of the communityindividuals, organisations
and businessmust be able to make their voice heard".
23. CNP is concerned that the target of
determining 60 per cent of major commercial and industrial planning
applications in 13 weeks does not sufficiently take into account
the complexities that will inevitably be encountered when determining
a minerals application in a National Park, for example when complex
legal agreements are necessary. This is particularly true for
the majority of minerals applications received in the Peak District
National Park and this needs to be borne in mind when assessing
the achievement of any target set.
24. CNP considers that the concept of business
planning zones would not be appropriate for National Parks because
of the inevitable conflict that such an approach would have with
National Park purposes.
25. CNP welcomes the proposed measures to
improve the effectiveness of the system, particularly the proposals
for refusing repeated applications, preventing twin tracking and
introducing time limited consents.
26. CNP supports the introduction of a limited
third party right of appeal.
27. CNP welcomes the commitment in paragraph
6.5 of the consultation document to removing Crown immunity from
planning control, which CNP considers is particularly important
for National Parks in relation to developments by the Ministry
of Defence. CNP recently raised this matter with the Defence Minister,
Lewis Moonie MP, who reassured us that the Ministry of Defence
supported the removal of Crown immunity. This approach is consistent
with the Secretary of State for Defence's policy statement on
the environment and Ministry of Defence current practice. The
following is extracted from Counsel's advice to CNP in February
2002. The full advice can be provided on request.
"Voluntary application of
the civilian controls is no substitute for statutory control:
the AS90/MLRS Notice of Proposed Development at the Otterburn
Training Area is a good example. The MOD took a `twin track' approach
throughout the process (ie on the one hand, it behaved as if the
application etc were a normal application, including producing
a `civilian' Environmental Statement; but, every time it appeared
to run into difficulties, the MOD retreated into reminding the
other stakeholders that it was not required to comply with the
regime at all).
I. It has a psychological approach on the
other stakeholders, particularly the planning authority (which
is thus much less likely to take a firm stance against the MOD).
II. At OTA (as an example) there was at least
one significant way in which the MOD has `got away' with something
which a civilian applicant would not (specifically: the MOD can
use a replacement for the M28 rocket without subjecting that new
rocket to formal environmental assessment or the process of planning
control; a civilian developer could not lawfully obtain an open
ended planning permission for an activity on this scale the long
term environmental impacts of which were unknown.) And, to that
extent, the MOD is not acting in accordance with the SofS for
Defence's policy statement of 7 July 2000 (which promised to only
depart from the rigours of civilian regulation `when such action
is absolutely necessary for the maintenance of operational capability').
If, on the other hand (and as
some people argue), there is little practical difference between
the way in which the MOD acts now, and the way it would act if
subject to normal planning control, then there can be no real
justification for maintaining the `crown immunity' regime (particularly
if the 7 July 2000 statement is to be meaningful). For completeness,
I should note that there is no reason why the application of civilian
planning control would restrict the MOD's freedom in a genuine
emergency. Thus, for example, the General Development Order specifically
allows uses (which would be a `change of use' otherwise requiring
planning permission) to take place on any land for 28 days a year
without express planning permission. So, if a crisis required,
say, particular new training to take place at short notice, that
would not require planning permission."
28. Major infrastructure projects in National
Parks should be exempted from any new Parliamentary procedures.
CNP is concerned about:
the Secretary of State's unfettered
discretion regarding the definition of "major projects";
the potential undermining of the
major development test as set out in government guidance (PPG7)
which requires a rigorous public examination of all major development
proposals in National Parks;
Parliament's structural difficulty
in effectively being able to do what is being asked of it (lack
of time and appropriate technical expertise);
the diminished opportunities for
public participation that would result from the proposed procedures.
CNP hopes that the above submission is of interest.
Please do not hesitate to contact me should you require clarification
of any of the above or any further information.
1 31 January 2002, Column 446W. Back
Section 61, Environment Act 1995. Back
Section 62, Environment Act 1995. Back
Paragraph 22, Circular 12/96. Back
Valuing our Environment, 2001. Back
Section 61, Environment Act 1995. Back
Paragraph 4.2, PPG7. Back
National Park statutory purposes are conservation and enhancement
of natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage and promotion
of opportunities for the public understanding and enjoyment of
the special qualities of the National Park (Section 61, Environment
Act 1995). Back
Paragraph 47, Circular 12/96. Back
Report of the 1991 National Parks Review Panel, the "Edwards
Paragraph 52, Circular 12/96. Back
Section 62, Environment Act 1995. Back
Paragraph 98, Government's Response to the Royal Commission on
Environmental Pollution's 20th Report. Back