Headlines: July 20th, 2005

Environmental campaigners are naming the local councils that they say are ‘wasting the countryside’, by allowing new housing developments to be built at too low densities or that make inadequate use of previously developed ‘brownfield’ land.The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England today publishes an in-depth analysis of new Government data to identify those councils which, it says, are making developers use land efficiently – and those that are failing to do so. The findings come as the Government has begun consultations on changes to the planning system to ensure local authorities take account of housing demand when looking at development plans.

The CPRE is naming 35 local councils, which it says perform poorly both on housing density and land recycling. They include 19 rural authorities – Mid Devon, Alnwick, Wansbeck, South Holland, Waveney, Wear Valley, East Riding of Yorkshire, Rutland, Boston, North Dorset, South Northamptonshire, South Norfolk, Harborough, Breckland, Torridge, Eden, Cherwell, Sedgemoor and Blyth Valley – and 16 who are responsible for towns and cities with populations of 75,000 or more. They are North Lincolnshire, (including Scunthorpe, Stevenage, Rugby, Kingston-upon-Hull, Redditch, Stockton-on-Tees, Great Yarmouth, Carlisle, Basingstoke and Deane, Telford and Wrekin, Hastings, Derby, Redcar and Cleveland, Bedford, Basildon and Mansfield.

Today’s report also lists what the campaigners see as the ten top performing councils, They are Oxford, Cheltenham, Nottingham, Brighton and Hove, Reading, Exeter, Southampton, Bournemouth, Bristol and Slough.

Kate Gordon, CPRE’s national planning officer, said it would be a mistake to use market triggers as the overriding rationale for deciding where, when and how much housing development should take place. She feared councils might be forced to release extra land for new homes if local house prices rose beyond a certain trigger point . This, she said, would put more countryside at risk as well as undermining urban regeneration and the progress that has been made in recycling vacant and derelict land, but could make little difference to house prices.

“The main problem has been that in some areas this policy isn’t being followed – and that’s what the Government should be concentrating on,” she said.

In announcing its proposals for changes to the planning system the Government said increased use of brownfield sites had ensured that 1.1 million new homes could be built on less land than had previously been earmarked for 900,000 properties. The proposals include measures to strengthen protection of the Greenbelt.