National Trust hits back in planning law row
The National Trust today hit back at Government claims it was misrepresenting changes to planning laws, warning it was concerned about the threat to "everyday places" that communities loved.
In an interview in the Financial Times, Communities Minister Greg Clark accused the trust of making "risible" claims that planning reforms would lead to development across the greenbelt.
But the National Trust said people did not just care about the greenbelt and national parks - as the row over proposals to sell off public forests earlier in the year showed.
The trust said its primary concern was the threat the reforms pose to everyday places in cities, towns and villages that were valued by communities.
It accused ministers of failing to protect those areas, in reforms that promote growth and in which "the dice are heavily loaded to favour development".
Ministers have said they want to simplify planning law, slashing 1,000 pages of policy to just 52, while continuing to protect the greenbelt and designated areas of natural beauty or scientific interest.
The draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was published last month, with a presumption in favour of sustainable growth, but critics have raised concerns that it will lead to a return to damaging development.
A spokesman for the National Trust today said: "Greg Clark and his colleagues at the Department for Communities and Local Government seem to think that greenbelts and other designated areas of countryside are all that anyone cares about.
"They are not, as the Government should have realised from the forestry debacle earlier this year.
"Our primary concern is what the Government's reforms threaten to do to the everyday places in and around cities, towns and villages that are hugely valued by local communities."
The National Trust said it believed any development must meet the needs of people and the environment as well as the economy, but that the Government had instead put "short-term financial gain" ahead of any other consideration.
The spokesman said: "It has failed to protect the everyday places that local communities love. It has given the power in planning to the already powerful.
"Whilst the Government is making warm noises about local communities in practice the dice are heavily loaded to favour development and local people simply won't get enough say."
The trust also described Mr Clark's accusation that those who opposed housing development were guilty of "nihilistic selfishness" as "odd", saying that it had developed hundreds of homes and had permission to build even more on land it owns.
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