Bigger Alert! -- corporations just re-wrote the planning system

Paul Mobbs mobbsey at
Tue Aug 2 21:49:14 BST 2011

Hi all,

Sorry, but I really don't know where to begin here. I've been going through 
this for the last 2 hours and all I see is trouble.

Yesterday the Department for Communities issues the draft National Planning 
Policy Framework, intended to replace existing planning guidance:

There is also a consultation report:

...and a summary:

...but as far as I can see the summary doesn't even begin to address the 
details contained in the draft. Perhaps the best way of understanding this is 
to view the press notice:

"Dramatic simplification of planning guidance to encourage sustainable growth"

The idea is to promote, through planning, a presumption in favour of 
"sustainable development". At this point all those environmentalists who've 
been working with the establishment on things like "green growth" or 
"sustainable consumption" should run away in shame because their idea of what 
constitutes "sustainable" is so absurd that no-one in their right mind could 
possibly swallow this (although I suspect that a lot of them will, purely for 
the money).

It would take me at least a week to produce a detailed analysis of this, and I 
don't have it. To wet your appetite (or rage?) let me instead list you a few 
lines fom the draft National Planning Policy Framework document --
Basically, their idea of "sustainable" is to build, dig and develop as much as 
possible as quickly as possible. E.g.:

[page v] "So sustainable development is about positive growth – making 
economic, environmental and social progress for this and future generations. 
The planning system is about helping to make this happen. Development that is 
sustainable should go ahead, without delay - a presumption in favour of 
sustainable development that is the basis for every plan, and every decision. 
This framework sets out clearly what could make a proposed plan or development 
unsustainable. "

[page 3] "For the planning system delivering sustainable development means: 
planning for prosperity (an economic role) – use the planning system to build 
a strong, responsive and competitive economy, by ensuring that sufficient land 
of the right type, and in the right places, is available to allow growth and 
innovation; and by identifying and coordinating development requirements, 
including the provision of infrastructure"

[page 3/4] "The Government is committed to ensuring that the planning system 
does everything it can to support sustainable economic growth. A positive 
planning system is essential because, without growth, a sustainable future 
cannot be achieved. Planning must operate to encourage growth and not act as 
an impediment. Therefore, significant weight should be placed on the need to 
support economic growth through the planning system."

[page 16] "Local planning authorities should consider using Local Development 
Orders to relax planning controls for particular areas or categories of 
development, where the impacts would be acceptable, and in particular where 
this would boost enterprise and growth."

[page 20] "Planning policies should support sustainable economic growth in 
rural areas by taking a positive approach to new development. Planning 
strategies should maintain a prosperous rural economy including policies to: 
# support the sustainable growth of rural businesses 
# promote the development and diversification of agricultural businesses; and 
# support sustainable rural tourism and leisure developments that benefit rural 
businesses, communities and visitors and which respect the character of the 
countryside. This should include supporting the provision and expansion of 
tourist and visitor facilities in appropriate locations where identified needs 
are not met by existing facilities in rural service centres."

[page 21] "To this end, the objectives of transport policy are to: 
# facilitate economic growth by taking a positive approach to planning for 
development; and 
# support reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and congestion, and promote 
accessibility through planning for the location and mix of development."

[page 22] "When planning for ports, airports and airfields that are not subject 
to a separate national policy statement, planning policies should consider 
their growth and role in serving business, leisure, training and emergency 
service needs. In doing this, planning policies should take account of this 
Framework as well as the principles set out in the relevant national policy 
statements and the Government Framework for UK Aviation."

[page 24] "Local planning authorities should not impose a ban on new 
telecommunications’ development in certain areas, impose blanket Article 4 
directions over a wide area or wide range of telecommunications development or 
insist on minimum distances between new telecommunications development and 
existing development."

[page 26] "Minerals are essential to support sustainable economic growth. It 
is therefore important that there is a sufficient supply of material to provide 
the infrastructure, buildings, energy and goods that the country needs. 
...ensure security of supply of industrial and energy minerals to support 
their likely use in manufacturing processes and energy generation taking 
account of any national forecasts of requirements and the importance of 
avoiding local as well as wider scarcity of supply..."

[page 28] "when planning for on-shore oil and gas development, clearly 
distinguish between the three phases (exploration, appraisal and production) 
and address constraints on production and processing within areas that are 
licensed for oil and gas exploration or production"

[page 29] "For the extraction of coal, there should be a presumption against 

[page 31] "The presumption in favour of sustainable development means that 
Local Plans should be prepared on the basis that objectively assessed 
development needs should be met... Planning permission should be granted where 
relevant policies are out of date, for example where a local authority cannot 
demonstrate an up-to-date five-year supply of deliverable housing sites."

I think that should give you a general picture of these new policy objectives 

I learnt my way around the planning and pollution control systems in the 
mid/late 1980s. At that time the whole system was still reeling from the 
impacts of Nicholas Ridley. This is essentially where I see this policy 
heading. I thought that the whole plan-led policy system was knobbled under 
Bliar... this is much worse.

I think you'll find -- even in the government's Sutainable Development 
Commission before it was abolished last year -- that any policy that 
concentrates purely on growth cannot be "sustainable". Even so, the whole 
purpose of this policy framework is to maximise the level of development in 
order to create growth.

Anyhow, as I said at the beginning, this is such a major change that it's 
going to take some time to look at the implications of it all. If anyone else 
is interested in doing something please get in touch -- and by "doing 
something" I don't mean writing a strongly worded objection (I think we can be 
a little more creative than that).


- -- 


"We are not for names, nor men, nor titles of Government,
nor are we for this party nor against the other but we are
for justice and mercy and truth and peace and true freedom,
that these may be exalted in our nation, and that goodness,
righteousness, meekness, temperance, peace and unity with
God, and with one another, that these things may abound."
(Edward Burrough, 1659 - from 'Quaker Faith and Practice')

Paul's book, "Energy Beyond Oil", is out now!
For details see

Read my 'essay' weblog, "Ecolonomics", at:

Paul Mobbs, Mobbs' Environmental Investigations
3 Grosvenor Road, Banbury OX16 5HN, England
tel./fax (+44/0)1295 261864
email - mobbsey at
website -
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