Friday, 23 September 2011

Council to back controversial planning rules

COUNCIL bosses are set to give a cautious welcome to controversial reforms of planning laws.

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Conservative-controlled Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council is set to back changes that would give a presumption in favour of “sustainable” development.

The plans have led to an outcry among some environmental campaigners, including The National Trust, over concerns it will see lead to more development of the countryside.

But the council’s draft official response to a consultation on the plans says: “The presumption in favour of sustainable development should be supported in principle.”

Yet it says there “sufficient safeguards” should be put in place “to ensure environmental assets and community facilities are protected and enhanced”.

A council report says the Government’s plan would “promote growth and development”
but warns it could “tip the balance too far in favour of development”.

This is because development would not permitted unless “adverse impacts would
significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits”.

And the report says this is “at odds” with other consultation policies which “seek to protect
and enhance environmental assets and community facilities” and other national policies.

The move also has “potential tensions” with the Government’s localism bill which “is often interpreted as giving communities added power to prevent unwanted development”.

The report adds that a proposal to consider other uses for land allocated for business use could “lead to pressures to release green belt land for business purposes”.

Plans could “necessitate a review of green belt boundaries” and “water down” protection of historic environments.

But it welcomes plans to scrap parking space targets imposed on new business developments, which the council said has led to “overspill” onto surrounding streets.

The proposal is part of the “national planning policy framework”, which would cut 1,000 pages of planning guidance to 58.

The report says: “The streamlining of national planning policy should be welcomed generally as reducing complexity, should benefit planners and the public alike and leave more
room for local discretion.

“However, there is a danger that differences in interpretation of the more concise policy will lead to more appeals and legal challenges.”

Ian Courts, cabinet member for economic development and regeneration will be asked to approve the response on Tuesday.

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