Agencies to promote 'sustainable' development
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The Environment Agency (EA) and Natural England will have to promote the government's view of sustainable development under plans to implement the Penfold Review.
The review was set up to determine whether non-planning consents postpone or discourage investment and found that these consents could create delay, uncertainty and costs to business.
The business department (BIS) says the aim of the latest implementation measures is to ensure that the EA and Natural England contribute to a competitive business environment.
It wants the bodies to consider the impact of their decisions on sustainable economic growth and the viability of what may be economically significant projects, and swiftly approve consents when it is appropriate to do so.
BIS says the remit will be based on the definition of sustainable development used in the proposed national planning policy framework (NPPF), which has still to be finalised, although the draft NPPF provoked controversy among environmentalists who fear its changes to UK planning policy will simply mean that almost any kind of development will be given the go-ahead.
“By making these agencies a tool for promoting development, their critical role as champions of our landscape, wildlife and heritage is undermined. They do not exist to promote development; they are there to make sure any proposed development does not destroy our national treasures and environmental support structures,” warned Neil Sinden, the policy director of the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
The draft NPPF includes a presumption in favour of sustainable development. However, a new report from the House of Commons communities and local government committee criticises the use of the phrase “sustainable development” in the draft NPPF, saying it is poorly defined and continually conflated with “sustainable economic growth”.
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In June 2021, the UK’s governing Conservative Party lost a by-election in Chesham and Amersham, a seat it had held for 47 years. The principal reasons reported as the cause of this defeat were proposed planning reforms and the promotion of housebuilding on greenfield sites across the south of England.
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