Headlines: June 8th, 2009

The Government is being told today that it needs to listen to local people if the planning process is to be democratic. The call comes from the Campaign to Protect Rural England as the Government prepares to publish its plans for the future of the South West region.

A draft of the plan attracted a record 35,000 responses and the CPRE is part of a coalition in the region which is encouraging people to write to the Communities and Local Government Secretary to demand changes to the final version of the plan. The proposals suggest that more than 115,000 new homes are needed in the Bristol and Bath area alone and that 33,000 of those could be built on Green Belt land.

Georgie Bigg, a CPRE Trustee said: “Plans for each of the English regions are meant to set out levels of development that are achievable and will not cause environmental damage. However, it increasingly seems that the Government are using them to deliver massive numbers of new homes with little regard for the impact that development will have on the quality and character of the countryside.”

Ms Bigg, who lives in the South West, said the CPRE agreed that the region needed new homes, especially affordable ones but draft plan had not taken the right approach. “The Government must show they are listening to the people that will be affected by this plan and significantly scale-back house building levels,” she said.

In the original draft plan the new homes target for the region was around 23,000 properties a year. Most recently this had been increased to more than 29,000 a year, which the CPRE and its coalition partners believe is unrealistic and unsustainable.