CONTROVERSIAL planning reforms which have left some of the most picturesque sites in the Five Valleys vulnerable to development have been condemned by Stroud District Council.
The authority believes the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which came into force last year, is ‘inherently unsound’ and leading to the ‘irreversible loss of open countryside’.
SDC also says the NPPF, dubbed the developer’s charter by critics, is causing ‘irreparable damage’ to landscape and heritage assets cherished by local communities.
The Coaltion Government’s decision to overhaul the planning laws was taken in a bid to kick-start house-building and stimulate economic growth.
But the reforms have been blamed for opening up huge swathes of rural Britain to development and have attracted considerable opposition from campaigners up and down the country who are fighting to preserve Greenfield sites.
In the Five Valleys, a number of sensitive locations, such as Rodborough Fields, Mankley Field in Leonard Stanley and Baxter’s Field in the Slad Valley, have been put at risk of development as a result of the NPPF’s introduction.
At a meeting of SDC on Thursday, November 28, councillors agreed to write to the secretary of state for communities Eric Pickles to express their views after endorsing a strongly-worded motion tabled jointly by Labour and the Green Party.
The motion, which was supported by Lid Dem members and an overwhelming majority of disgruntled Conservative councillors, called for the Government to amend planning legislation ‘before the damage had gone too far’.
Labour Cllr Steve Lydon (The Stanleys), who put forward the motion, said the NPPF had made it incredibly difficult for SDC to resist planning applications from predatory developers who were only interested in making a profit, rather than meeting local housing need.
His party colleague David Drew (Stonehouse) blasted the reforms as a ‘root and branch destruction’ of existing planning legislation and said they had undermined local-decision making.
Speaking at the meeting, a visibly incandescent and animated John Marjoram (Green, Trinity) unleashed a verbal tirade against the new planning regime, saying it placed too much emphasis on ‘economic considerations’ at the expense of the environment and local communities.
And Cllr Nigel Studdert Kennedy (Con, The Stanleys) said it had allowed developers to engage in ‘asset-stripping of the countryside’.
But Conservative Cllr Debbie Young (Chalford), who abstained in the vote, said the Stroud District was under siege from developers because SDC did not have a Local Plan in place and could not demonstrate a 5-year land supply for housing.
She added that the authority would be in a far stronger position to reject unwelcome planning applications once its Local Plan had been approved and she praised the NPPF for giving communities the power to shape their own development through the introduction of Neighbourhood Plans.