I see that CPRE have released another report today, “Protecting the Wider Countryside” claiming that only 49% of the countryside will be protected if the NPPF is adopted in its present form. That is the area which is protected by a national designation. The rest is undesignated. So CPRE argue that it should be subject to a policy protecting it for its own sake, which is the policy currently in force. CPRE point out that it is over 25 years old.
But what does the draft NPPF say about the countryside? In the heading “Natural Environment” it says that the objective is that planning should help to deliver a healthy natural environment for the benefit of everyone and safe places which promote wellbeing. To do this:
“the planning system should aim to conserve and enhance the natural and local environment by:
• protecting valued landscapes
• minimising impacts on biodiversity and providing net gains in biodiversity, where possible; and
• preventing both new and existing development from contributing to or being put at unacceptable risk from, or being adversely affected by unacceptable levels of land, air, water or noise pollution or land instability.”
In addition the policy of protecting the best and most versatile agricultural land is expressly set out.
Is it really necessary to have a policy of protecting the countryside for its own sake as well? I wouldn’t object it the policy were added, but I do wonder if this latest report isn’t just stirring things up, or trying to keep the NPPF in the public eye while DCLG considers the 10,000 responses it received. After all, this isn’t a new point. From the early days of the consultation, those opposed to the NPPF have been pointing out this omission.
And can CPRE really conclude, given the policy I have set out above, that “51% of England’s land mass is countryside that is not protected by the policies of the draft NPPF”? Their survey actually shows that 51% is not covered by a national designation, and that 49% is therefore protected. The 51% is covered by the positive and negative policies in the NPPF.
It’s also interesting to see CPRE stating that the policy of protecting the countryside is over 25 years old. Will they acknowledge that the presumption in favour of development is not new either, but is now 89 years old?