Who's telling the truth about planning?

'Strict controls' are to be announced. The reality is different. Matt Chorley, Jane Merrick and Andrew McCorkell explain

The National Trust is to be allowed to "claim victory" in its battle with the Government to restrict planning, while behind the scenes ministers plough ahead with reforms to kickstart development across the country,
The Independent on Sunday has learnt.

Ministers are already drawing up changes to their draft planning framework designed to appease the conservation group and other countryside campaigners. Details of the new framework – which slashed planning guidance from hundreds of pages to just 52 – will be fleshed out, after officials were forced to concede too much of it was open to interpretation. "The National Trust will have to claim victory," a cabinet source said, arguing that critics of the policy had wilfully misrepresented it after "reading the planning guidance upside down".

The most significant concession is expected to be the reinstatement of a "brownfield first" rule to ensure previously developed sites are built on before open countryside. There is also said to be "room for manoeuvre" on a number of other key areas.

"Peace is breaking out all over," said Dame Fiona Reynolds, director general of the National Trust, which has published a mini manifesto of 10 key changes. These include dropping a demand for 20 per cent more land for building, allowing communities a limited right to appeal against development and giving councils power to refuse proposals that would cause harm. "We are not looking for victory," said a trust spokesman. "We are looking for a planning system that works in the way it needs to."

In a sign of the new harmony, Dame Fiona sent a hamper of scones to Eric Pickles, the minister in charge of planning, and his wife, Irene.

The stand-off with the Government had become increasingly fractious. Last week, Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, spoke to this newspaper about the reforms. The claim that creating a presumption in favour of sustainable development was "a massive erosion of the ability to conserve, is bollocks, frankly", he said. However, ministers are privately nervous about being seen to take on the National Trust, which last week revealed its membership had soared to more than four million for the first time. Dorset was the county with the highest proportion of members: almost a fifth of the population is signed up. Ironically, it was a housing development in that county which is seen as the testbed for many of the reforms.

The development in the village of Buckland Newton is in the constituency of Oliver Letwin, Cabinet Office minister for policy. Residents might not realise it, but their attempts to secure affordable housing for local families have become the catalyst for the coalition's planning shake-up.

With house prices up to 10 times local wages, and young people forced to leave the village where they grew up, a Community Property Trust of local people was formed, with the backing of West Dorset district council, the Homes and Communities Association and the Tudor Trust, who all put up money. A development of 10 eco-friendly homes at Lydden Meadow is modelled on a converted farmhouse. Building began in November. People began moving in on 1 August; the last house was occupied two weeks ago. From the Gaggle of Geese pub and post office to the village hall and school, campaigners say community services would have been lost without an injection of new blood.

Nicky Barker, a former parish councillor who spent seven years getting the project off the ground, said the community can become sustainable again: "Instead of becoming a retirement ghetto, it becomes a balanced community with a need for a school, shop and a village hall – all the things that a balanced community needs."

Villagers developed a "Community Land Trust" model to buy and build two- to four-bedroom homes for people with long-standing family connections to the village. Kim Park, 27, a steel worker, has moved in to one with his girlfriend, Kirsty Sullivan, 19, a pre-school assistant. "Normally, Londoners buy around here, and there are a lot are second homes," Mr Park said. "We can't touch that with the wages we get down here."

Five homes are rented and five have been sold under a shared-ownership arrangement, which allows residents to own up to 80 per cent of the property. Owners wishing to move out must sell their equity to people with connections to the village.

In August, days after the birth of their daughter, Ida, Matt Russell, 29, a pub kitchen manager in nearby Dorchester, and his partner, Lydia Russell, 26, began renting a three-bedroom house in Lydden Meadow, after a seven-year wait. From their combined salary of £22,000, they pay £540 a month in rent.

"Obviously, we wanted to live in the country," said Mr Russell. "My parents are here, my grandparents are here, I went to the primary school just up the road and even the toddlers' play group. All my friends from school and the village have moved out from Buckland Newton because they couldn't afford to live here. I have come back to where I was born to give my daughter the same sort of life really."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas