The subject of provision of appropriate housing and building on ‘brownfield’ sites has been discussed widely, and not the least in South Suffolk, a rural constituency with many fine locations.
Our website has covered this:
The main antagonist is that successive governments have taken the easy route to national housing pressures in seeking to build on, for them, the unused, low political value, rural greenspaces and farmland. Changes to the planning rules have spurred developers on to fill the open spaces with housing offering the greatest commercial return, possibly leaving the localities with housing ill-matched to their needs, or inappropriate to the character of the existing housing. This is not helped by requiring conformance to the nebulous concepts of ‘sustainability’ and ‘affordability’, which are just convenient feelgood labels to be applied to indifferent developments in order to mask the underlying drive to fill as many open spaces as possible.
From the Express:
The retiring head of the National Trust, Sir Simon Jenkins, has singled out planning blight – the threat of identikit housing estates covering green belt land and swallowing up villages – as a huge well of political anger, and a rich campaigning opportunity for Ukip.
Sir Simon says that the NT has been overwhelmed with pleas from rural dwellers for help to fight planning applications and that a “battle royale” is raging to save Britain’s most beautiful places. Changes to the planning system in 2012 swept away a 1400-page tangled mess of rules, and replaced it with a simpler, but useless regime based on that weasely phrase: “sustainable development,” amounting to a free rein for developers.
The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England has calculated that there is enough brown field land for 1.5 million homes. UKIP recognises that it is essential to utilise as much of the brownfield sites as possible, before considering greenbelt or agricultural land.
UKIP’s housing spokesman, Andrew Charalambous, promises a new government agency to seek out brown sites, plus tax and planning incentives to convert existing commercial property for housing. He says:
“UKIP have underlined their position as the only main British political party which will categorically protect our green belt and green spaces. In England alone, fourteen green belts cover 13% of the total land, providing a breath of fresh air for 45 million people. The green belt is effectively the lungs of Great Britain, without which the 88% of our population living in urban areas would have their air quality severely compromised. Yet the government has not conducted a single enquiry into the impact our receding green belt will have on our respiratory health.”
The outline UKIP policies on Housing and Planning are:
- Planning rules in the NPPF will be changed to make it easier to build on brownfield sites instead of greenfield sites
- Central government is to list the nationally available brownfield sites for development and issue low-interest bonds to enable decontamination
- Houses on brownfield sites will be exempt from Stamp Duty on first sale and VAT relaxed for redevelopment of brownfield sites
- UKIP will protect the Green Belt
- Planning Permission for large-scale developments can be overturned by a referendum triggered by the signatures of 5% of the District or Borough electors collected within three months
The current planning rules do not express a preference for brownfield developments, and the UKIP proposal will amend policy aspects which deter brownfield sites use. A publicly available list of such brownfield sites will stimulate debate and help to allay fears about overdevelopment in sensitive areas. The policy to have low-interest bonds for brownfield site clearing and decontamination is apt for the former industrial site at Brantham. This would mean that the associated greenfield farmland site which is part of the package for the developer would not be needed and could be spared development. Prioritising brownfield sites would spare many sensitive locations from having as many of the planned houses now under consideration, or even free them from such developments entirely.
Some financial incentives for buyers will also be introduced, to help defray some of the extra costs associated with building on brownfield land. If a planned development is particularly unpopular or is forced on a community for the wrong reasons by a local authority, it can be challenged by a referendum of the affected council electors. UKIP’s policies take a positive and active approach to rural housing development. They make it possible to find sites for essential housing which do not impinge on the nature of the local environment, and which will defend greenspaces from intrusive and inappropriate developments. It also puts the onus on would-be developers to justify their proposals to build on greenfield sites when there may be many brownfield sites otherwise available.
- Is Ukip the only party that cares about the British countryside? | Simon Jenkins (theguardian.com)
- Ukip looks set to win the rural vote in next election, says NIGEL BURKE (express.co.uk)
- Government ‘has ruined countryside’ (dailymail.co.uk)
Photo by russelljsmith