Headlines: March 19th, 2003

The Campaign for the Preservation of Rural England is today launching a major campaign on the Government’s Sustainable Communities Plan. The Communities not Concrete campaign aims to ensure that proposals for communities and housing, especially in the suggested South East Growth Areas, are delivered in a way that boosts urban renewal, protects the countryside, and improves, rather than undermines, people’s quality of life.The CPRE has written to all of its members in the proposed South East Growth Areas and is asking them and other people to write to their MPs to raise concerns about the potential impact on the countryside of development on the scale proposed.

There is particular concern about plans for massive growth areas in four key parts of the wider South East, from Northamptonshire across to Cambridgeshire and down to Kent. Julie Stainton, CPRE’s national Planning Campaigner, says these could mean more than half a million new homes – and more roads and traffic – on greenfield sites over the next 30 years. She fears the Sustainable Communities proposals could pose serious dangers to the countryside and is calling for support from MPs for five key tests.

The five sustainability tests are – independent testing of proposed house building figures, not centralist imposition of top-down targets on local areas; radical improvements in the use that is made of land and other natural resources; higher targets for the proportion of housing to be built on ‘brownfield’ sites; a coherent Government strategy to share economic opportunities across all the English regions and genuine opportunities for public participation in decision making on plans for new development in their area.

“Growth on this scale could devastate the countryside in a region already under severe pressure. And it could further damage declining urban areas which desperately need investment and attention – not just elsewhere in the region but right across the country,” Julie Stainton says. Despite these concerns, CPRE welcomes the emphasis Sustainable Communities places on better use of land, improved design and affordable housing.