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Countryside safe after all?

Posted 27 March 2012
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Countryside safe after all?
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Today (March 27th) saw the long-awaited publication of the government's new National Planning Policy Framework for England. It comes after months of debate and the expression of concern that precious areas of countryside may not be protected as well as before amid a desire to speed up the system and boost economic growth.

The "presumption in favour of sustainable development" has caused consternation, but it may be that the document answers such worries.

People who like to go walking in Green Belt areas around major centres of population might be assuaged by the assertion in the publication that building should not be planned on  any green parts of the belt, but rather either side of it or in areas within that are already built up (such as existing villages).

And, it said: "As with previous Green Belt policy, inappropriate development is, by definition, harmful to the Green Belt and should not be approved except in very special circumstances."
Of particular interest to some may be paragraph 114, which says that "undeveloped coastline" should be kept in that state, which will be music to the ears of those who love unspoilt areas of shore and look forward to the establishment of an English Coastal Path.

Moreover, paragraphs 115 and 116 reiterate that national parks and other designated protected areas should retain the same high levels of protection they have now, with no new building other than in "exceptional" circumstances.   

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) seems quite pleased with the document, with its chief executive Shaun Spiers stating he was "very reassured" that planning minister Greg Clark has accepted its arguments about the value of the countryside even if not "specifically designated" and accepted the CPRE's assertion that the "five principles of the UK Sustainable Development Strategy" should be in the document. 

Mr Spiers added the caveat that the CPRE will study the detail of the plans before coming to more definite conclusions, but if the government really has managed to produce a plan that balances the needs of the economy and England's most green and pleasant places, those who like to walk, ride and climb there may have much to be happy about.