Ministers offer planning talks

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Indy Politics

Ministers are ready to hold talks with opponents of their planning reforms, it emerged today.

Planning minister Greg Clark told The Times that he was prepared to sit down and discuss the demands of the National Trust and other groups.

The draft National Planning Policy Framework was published in July, with a presumption in favour of sustainable growth, but critics have raised concerns that it will lead to a return to damaging development.

Mr Clark told the newspaper that he was ready to discuss opponents' views with them but warned there would be no backing down on the overall thrust of the proposals to simplify English planning laws in an attempt to trigger growth.

Any change would be to the "wording" of the document to express more clearly protections for the countryside.

Mr Clark said that opponents had got the "wrong end of the stick".

He said sustainability of developments meant that the impact on the community and the environment would be taken into account.

If anything in the consultation paper had failed to stress the importance of protecting the environment, he would think again.

However failure to see the reforms through would be devastating for future generations.

"The consequences would be to continue the position we are in where we are not building enough homes for the people needing them for the first time. We are contributing to homelessness, to overcrowding, to poverty."

The National Trust welcomed the move, the newspaper said.

Peter Nixon, its director of conservation, told it that the National Trust was not anti-development but had "acute concerns" about the plans, which they believe prevent a balanced approach to planning.

Mr Clark said there was no prospect of a U-turn.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he said: "What I'm saying to the National Trust and a few other organisations who have expressed concerns, is let's be forensic about this, let's look at the detail.

"If there are particular aspects, particular sentences that you don't think express clearly enough the protections that are there, then let's talk about them.

"That's why we are consulting on them."