Friday, 3 April 2015

Protecting the countryside

I'm supporting the manifesto produced by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).  The manifesto advocates:
  •  Increasing delivery of the right housing in the right places by investing in affordable housing to meet local needs, and providing incentives for custom-build and small-scale house builders, prioritising building on brownfield sites.
  • Support local aspirations by introducing a community right of appeal against speculative development which conflicts with agreed local or neighbourhood plans. 
  •  Prioritising smarter transport choices, including supporting community-led transport, better public transport networks and local freight distribution hubs, over road expansion
  • Ensuring that new energy infrastructure minimises local impacts through incentivising renewable energy on buildings and brownfield sites, and adopting a precautionary approach to fracking.
  • Promoting the resilience of the food and farming system by strengthening policies to protect the best farmland from development and to foster the growth of local food economies, from ‘field to fork’.
  • Enhancing people’s experience of the countryside, by committing to monitoring rural tranquillity and dark skies and strengthening the policies created to improve them.

These demands are entirely consistent with Green political philosophy. For instance, we strongly supports London's Green Belt, and want planning policy to continue to direct new development in smart, compact neighbourhoods rather than sprawling out onto our countryside.

Indeed, most of the CPRE’s demands concern planning and here we see that successive changes have limited the ability of local planning authorities to make the decisions they think right for their communities.

Local planning authorities have suffered some of the deepest cuts in local government, which is threatening their ability to plan London well. I am standing on an anti-austerity platform, and so would stop further cuts to councils. The Green Party agrees that local councils should have a much more proactive role in the development process, including assembling sites for development and developing more of the plans.

They should also engage citizens more meaningfully in the development of policy, co-producing plans rather than 'consulting' on plans that have already effectively been set in stone.

Finally, planners need to retrofit our existing communities so that they are resilient to climate change, and meet the needs of those let down by some of the more poorly planned areas of the capital. We fully support the concept of ‘Lifetime Neighbourhoods’ and would like planning policy to aim for everyone to be within 5 minutes travel of essential local services.

We believe that local planning authorities need to be better resourced to carry out this essential role, to ensure that London becomes more liveable and resilient, and meets our needs for new homes without sprawl.

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