Headlines: January 31st, 2005

The Government is being warned today that without an urgent change of course in the implementation of policies for sustainable communities, the countryside, urban regeneration and the quality of life of countless people is set to suffer lasting damage.The warning comes from Neil Sinden, the policy director of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, with the launch of the CPRE’s critique of the Government’s Sustainable Communities Plan. The publication coincides with the start of the Government’s Delivering Sustainable Communities Summit in Manchester.

Mr. Sinden says the reality of the plan was a long way from the rhetoric and there needs to be an urgent change of course by all those involved in its implementation to avoid damaging the quality of life for hundreds of communities.

He says CPRE staff and volunteers have been closely involved in all the growth areas set out in the Sustainable Communities Plan and CPRE’s analysis of progress highlights eight serious concerns about how sustainable the plan really is. First there is a clear shift towards top-down centralist planning with little opportunities for the communities being affected to have their say; targets for the promotion of new developments on brownfield sites are too low; plans for big greenfield development could undermine the viability of efforts to regenerate empty buildings and redundant sites in our towns and cities; the focus on the wider South East threatens to undermine prosperity and prospects in less wealthy regions and plans for the most northerly regions use crude economic measures of progress, neglecting people’s quality of life.

Mr. Sinden concludes that the Government has done much to encourage better planning and urban regeneration but with the irresponsible drive for growth it was in danger of throwing all this away. Finally he calls on ministers to make a real commitment to urban renaissance and countryside protection at the Manchester summi