Permission to plan

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
September 07, 2011, 6:28 PM GMT+0

Over half of the British public would support Government plans to hand more planning permission powers over to local councils in England, but significant numbers agree that National Trust fears over the damage the plans could cause to the country’s green belt may be well-founded, our poll has found.

  • 54% support giving local councils more power to decide what is built in their areas
  • 21% would oppose such a change in powers, while 25% aren’t sure
  • 44% of people say that the National Trust is not exaggerating its stance on the new planning policy, and that the changes ‘will probably pose a serious risk to the countryside’
  • Compared to 25% who say that the National Trust is ‘exaggerating the impact of the planning changes’, and one in five (20%) saying that they don’t know
  • 33% of British people say that current planning rules are ‘about right’
  • 23% think it is currently too difficult to build
  • 20% think it is currently too easy, although 24% say they don’t know

The results come in light of the controversy surrounding the publication of a Government paper on ‘the national planning policy framework’, which, the Government argues, will allow councils to decide what is built in their areas; simplifying planning law, promoting growth, and increasing the amount of available affordable housing. However, the National Trust has strongly criticised the plans, claiming that the new plans will see natural areas of beauty destroyed.

‘Nihilistic selfishness’

Responding to the controversy, planning minister Greg Clark (pictured) has defended the policy, explaining how it will help low-income families get on to the property ladder, and give locals more control over the building in their area. He claimed that ‘a higher proportion of incomes is taken up in housing costs, which is pushing people into poverty. We all have a responsibility to meet that [need]’. Clark also argued that localities that favoured the conservation of their towns to the detriment of housing were guilty of ‘nihilistic selfishness’.

However, National Trust director general Fiona Reynolds has criticised the reforms, calling them a ‘wholesale shift’ away from currently largely satisfactory planning laws, and told the BBC that ‘the tone and words [of the paper] are sending a message that planning is [solely] to promote growth, not to protect the environment’.