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An opportunity to deliver healthy green communities

If the rumours are to be believed, the long awaited and much hyped ‘Housing White Paper’ will be published next week. Having been delayed since before Christmas, and subjected to a number of re-writes, it sounds as if the White Paper has been causing some significant headaches within Government.

February 2017

As Ruth Chambers discussed in her excellent blog this week planning policy is increasingly being driven by the housing crisis. The Link Land Use Planning Group would like to see the Government move away from the current short-termism approach, in which the major house builders can dictate the pace and type of development. The group has instead developed a set of principles that we hope will be recognised in the White Paper. These are the aspirations that we are continually pushing in all areas of our work.

The White Paper must reinforce the importance of the plan-led system in identifying and delivering well-located, high quality new homes. Plans should be informed by up to date, locally informed ecological and spatial data in the form of ecological network maps. Proper understanding of the capacity of the environment to meet the demands of new development and the people and communities it intends to serve, must be central to decision making.

The Government’s Housing White Paper and the 25 year plan for the environment must work together to deliver outcomes that provide quality homes, whilst also delivering quality for nature.

New housing must include provision for green infrastructure. All new housing must have green infrastructure at its heart. New housing must be sensitive to our cultural and natural heritage, whilst creating liveable and resilient communities. New housing must meet national access standards, provide a net gain for biodiversity and respect local landscapes. Developments must be well connected and of a scale appropriate to their location. Funding mechanisms must secure the long term maintenance and enhancement of green spaces and biodiversity networks.

Garden towns and villages must be exemplars of environmental sustainability and green infrastructure provisions, in order to reflect the true principles of the concept. The prefix ‘garden’ must mean truly sustainable and healthy places to live, not simply greenwash.

Decisions regarding public land must be transparent and informed by environmental value and local residents. The disposal of surplus public land must be done with full consideration of the public authority duty to have regard to conserving biodiversity, and must safeguard public access to high quality green space.

Local authority planning teams must be resourced to enable them to operate effectively and to retain access to environmental and ecological expertise. Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) have faced a 46% cut in funding over the past five years. A recent survey by the British Property Federation (BPF) identified the under-resourcing of LPA planning teams as the primary cause of the problems facing the planning system today.

The Government's White Paper is an opportunity to really change the delivery of housing in the UK, to make it a force for good, positively changing people’s lives and aspirations. We call on Government to grasp this opportunity to create new homes that benefit both people and the environment alike.

Victoria Bankes Price

Chair, Land Use Planning Group

Planning Advisor, Woodland Trust

Find me on twitter @VBP2011

The opinions expressed in this blog are the author’s and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.