Category Archives: Planning

Sustainable housing in the High Peak

persimmon1The High Peak Local Plan, adopted in April this year, commits the borough council to pursue sustainable housing policies that provide for new building of affordable housing, while respecting the landscape and the natural habitats of this beautiful region. But, faced with a shrinking budgets and weak planning legislation, does our borough council have the means to stop unsustainable plans from going forward?

There`s really no argument against the perception that more housing is required within the UK, but there are plenty of arguments against the method of planning that the current government has imposed on councils and the people they should represent. The National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF) is not overtly a bad process. It allows for adoption of a local plan and for people to organise to submit neighbourhood plans. But despite the fact that plans have been approved and accepted by government inspectors, the council are often left without any real power to uphold the plans when planning applications that have been refused go to appeal.

Large building and speculative interests have fortunes at their disposal and so can wreck the democratic process by employing expensive legal representatives against which most councils cannot respond. Why? Because the current Tory government has more or less bankrupt most authorities and how can you justify expensive legal costs when you have schools and adult care to consider? No contest really and so our sympathy must be with councils who do try to protect their environment against unsustainable and inappropriate developments.

Aside from the appeals issue, the NPPF, just doesn’t work very well to deliver the housing we do need. The problem is, there’s no obligation on developers to actually build the houses once the permission is obtained. Foot-dragging keeps the supply of houses well below demand, raising the price developers can obtain per unit built.

It’s a recognised problem that delivery of built houses is well short of what is planned for and we can now look forward to the latest government response to this – the Housing Delivery Test – yet another example of attempting to solve the wrong problem. The Housing Delivery Test will force councils who do not meet house building targets to release more land for development – which of course is more likely to be on greenfield sites than the original land allocated for building. So, instead of being penalised, foot-dragging developers are rewarded by being given access to land not previously available for building! Does anyone really believe that this is not deliberate?

Take a look at this blog post on the issue by the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

So what can we do? Easy answer in my view:

  • Join the Green Party, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the Friends of the Peak.
  • Get the facts about so-called sustainable development
  • Start writing to your MP and the Communities Secretary, Greg Clark. Write in your own words and spread the word – it is the only weapon we have against what is essentially the destruction of the democratic process.

Currently in my part of the world, Burbage, Buxton there are two contentious planning applications (HPK/2015/0573 & HPK/2016/0234) and another in the pipeline. None of these fit the criteria for ‘sustainable development’ and all three are on greenfield sites which in all cases form part of the boundary that should exist between development and the National Park.

persimmon

Meanwhile large areas at Harpur Hill and opposite Staden Lane plus ‘brownfield’ sites in Buxton remain empty and up for sale despite planning permission having been granted. It is not too late to let the ‘powers that be’ know what you feel about this situation and if you would like to object to applications as noted above the application references are as above. You can submit comments and objects to planning applications on the High Peak Borough Council website.

Paul Waring

greenholm

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How much of a threat are Second Homes to Rural Communities?

Charlotte Farrell, Parliamentary and Local candidate in Hope Valley, High Peak says:

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At a recent hustings the issue of second homes came up. It is an issue of some importance in the Derbyshire villages where lots of properties are used as holiday lets or second homes. Not only does it deprive people of the physical opportunity of living in the area but it also pushes up the price of property beyond the means of most local people to be able to afford it.

At the hustings I expressed the view that action needs to be taken to restrict second home ownership. This view was challenged by former Tory minister Edwina Curry, herself a High Peak resident who said that such a policy would ‘devastate’ local villages, and that I was a ‘crack-pot’ for wanting to restrict second home ownership.

Her argument was that the income from second homes was apparently more beneficial to the local economy than that of a person or family living here full time and permanently contributing to the local economy and community, a point I totally disagree with.
How many people who use the holiday homes actually also use our local shops? I suspect most come stocked up with food from their nearest supermarket at home, and only buy the odd item locally. I know that from time to time I have been asked by visitors where the nearest supermarket is, and they’ve seemed surprised to find that it’s in a nearby town, but they would still rather drive there than shop locally, stick with what they are familiar with.

Yes, visitors may eat out in the pubs, but then so do local people and so do people staying in those pubs and in local bed and breakfast accommodation.

And because the price of second properties has pushed up the price in villages, (even more so than prices are pushed up anyway due to our flawed monetary system) many of those local people who do manage to find work in the area are not able to afford their own home. For young people the choice is often stark, move to a town or live with parents. And whilst that may suit for a while if people want to start a family it is hardly ideal.

I know the Yorkshire Dales well, and many of the villages there are totally devoid of young people and after years of houses being bought up as holiday homes they are now dying, schools are closing through lack of numbers and pubs are closing because second home owners do not frequent them enough. The High Peak is not yet at that stage; and we are saved to an extent by being between two large conurbations, Manchester and Sheffield, but that has turned villages into commuter towns and again contributed to the pricing out of local people who want to stay and work in the area.

The part of the Peak District where I live is indeed beautiful, and on the face of it affluent, but I wonder how many people visiting would be shocked to know that there has been a food bank operating in the Hope Valley for a year now. How many would be shocked to know that a lot of the staff who serve them in the pubs and hotels are earning far below the minimum wage let alone a living wage.

So does it make me a crack-pot for wanting to find a way in which people who work in the rural economy can afford to live near to their work, to find a way for young people to be able to remain in their communities and find properly paid work and to be able to aspire to live there and raise their own families. Is it naive of me to want to see rural communities able to hold on to a reasonable level of facilities including a school, some shops and a post office nearby, together with a health centre or at least a Doctor’s surgery that can be accessed by a reliable bus service. To have a pub and some level of community life. Such facilities need a properly paid working population to support the demand and importantly, a balanced age structure.

I want to see our villages as viable communities and the basis of this is affordable housing. I accept that tourists and holidaymakers are an important part of the rural economy and they can help to stop village communities becoming isolated and insular. But when they leave, village life must be able to carry on fulfilling the needs of permanent residents.

There needs to be village plans developed in cooperation with the local community to identify needs and the means of delivering them. Inevitably this will require some protection for housing against speculative purchase. Finding an answer to this will not be easy and I don’t pretend to have the whole answer, but I don’t think that I am being a crack-pot in trying to find one.

First published on the East Midlands Green Party website 27 April, 2015

Everyone Needs a Home

John Devine, Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Amber Valley writes …

GP2014_John-Devine-002Everyone needs a home – somewhere they feel safe and can call their own. The Green Party sees this as a fundamental right of every citizen of this country: to have somewhere safe to live, affordable, warm and secure.

We live on a small island where land is limited. But demand for houses is rising, this is because our population continues to rise and also because traditional households are splitting up, there are a growing number of single person households. As a result there is more pressure to build on greenfield sites and those that once would have been uneconomic, or left for wildlife and recreation. But concreting over the countryside is not the solution and will deprive all of us of our precious open spaces and other species of their habitats.

There is a housing crisis and somehow the government has sold us the idea that the big developers and the multinational building companies will solve it, if we just leave them to get on with it. This is nonsense. These companies exist primarily to create profits for their shareholders and executives. Consider the following:

• Developers make more profit from building large houses in luxury developments.
• Building on greenfield sites is cheaper.
• Developers don’t need to be concerned with whether there are good transport links to work, shop and leisure from their new homes.
• Making new homes energy-efficient reduces developers’ profits.

Developers can’t be blamed for doing what they do, they build houses to make profit, but they alone can’t solve the housing crisis. Local Authorities are now instructed by central Government how many homes they have to provide, which puts even more pressure on their finances and makes a nonsense of their planning.

The Green Party believes that decisions and control over housing supply and development belongs in the hands of the Local Authority having the responsibility of discovering what the community needs. New housing should be planned for on the basis of independent housing needs surveys; commercial house builders and their representatives should not be involved in the process of identifying potential sites or assessing housing needs on behalf of the local community.

Planning laws should be there for all of us, not just the developers – they should be there to allow Local Authorities to make projections about the services they need to provide, based on the needs of people. They should be there to protect our greenbelt and open spaces.

Are there enough homes for our current population? No. What is the solution? The Green Party would start with the many thousands of properties standing empty up and down the country. There are 1,000 in Amber Valley alone. Bringing back into use such empty properties should be a priority.

The Green Party believes that the responsibility for social and affordable housing should be returned to Local Authorities, who are best placed to understand the needs of their communities. If house building was under the control of the Local Authority it is more likely that local trades people would be used. The wealth generated would then circulate in the local economy rather than being sucked up by big corporation shareholders and executives.

We need well constructed, insulated and energy efficient homes, fitting into their communities, where needed and when needed. We need affordable homes in which people can feel safe and secure and in communities in which they can take pride. We don’t need more big executive estates on greenfield sites.

Had Amber Valley Borough Council been permitted to develop their housing strategy along Green Party lines, much of the outrage felt by the local communities at the prospect of having large, luxury, developments forced on to them would not have come about. Residents would not now be voicing their outrage at the loss of their green fields and open spaces to luxury housing for which they believe there is little need in Amber Valley. The residents of Amber Valley feel that their needs have taken second place to profit and that their voice has been ignored.

First posted on East Midlands GP blog 4 Feb 2015

Greens Out in the Cold – Again

Greens at AVBCIn the same week of the uproar surrounding The Green Party being left out of the plans for ‘Leaders debates’ running up to next year’s national election, local Mid Derbyshire Green Party members were left out of last night’s (15th October) Extraordinary Meeting of Amber Valley Borough Council (AVBC) at the Town Hall, Market Place, Ripley, to consider changes to the Core Strategy Local Plan.

Amber Valley Borough Council limited public attendance at the meeting to just 25, with just 20 non-council members being allowed to speak. Despite numerous requests to hold the meeting in a larger venue, over a hundred people were left outside in pouring rain for over an hour before being allowed into the entrance to the council building to hear the meeting through a speaker system.

Mid Derbyshire Green Party AVBC candidate for Belper North, Sue MacFarlane, said “Amber Valley Borough Council recognised the huge public interest in this issue, but did not hold the meeting in a venue big enough to accommodate the numbers of people who wanted to attend. Some of the submissions regarding the proposed Core Plan – including the submissions from Mid Derbyshire Green Party and Transition Belper – were initially left out of the summary document, and included too late for councillors to have sufficient time to consider them before the meeting. Green Party Policy says that democracy and accountability are vital at all levels of government and especially in local government. I don’t feel that the voices of the people of Belper were properly heard at the meeting, and I am disappointed that the plan still includes proposals to build on green field land at Bullsmoor Farm in Belper.’

Sue, together with Belper Town Council Green Party candidate for Belper North, John Devine and other Belper Greens, were at Ripley Town Hall along with members of Belper Town Council, Transition Belper, Residents Groups and other residents of Amber Valley who wanted to ensure that AVBC are aware of the depth of feeling regarding the Local Plan.

Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, is supporting Mid Derbyshire Greens position on this issue. Natalie is visiting Belper on November 17th to meet with our Local Green Party Candidates and their team, and to visit some of the proposed ‘Green Field’ sites. We are hoping to arrange a public meeting during Natalie’s visit to ensure that local people get a chance to speak to her about their concerns.

Sue MacFarlane
Mid Derbyshire Greens

My Journey to the Green Party – by John Youatt

Video courtesy of Bakewell Green Festival

Beware! Mega-farms on the Loose: Foston next?

DSC_0120In the wake of a decision by the Welsh Assembly to allow a 1000 head mega-dairy unit near Welshpool in Powys can we expect increased pressure on Derbyshire County Council to approve the application for a 25,000 pig unit in Foston?

A recent media event in London was part of a ‘charm offensive’ by big agribusinesses to try to win over opinion on mega-farms, with speakers with close associations with the industry giving their ‘objective’ view on them.  They went to great lengths to insist that the economies of scale that come from these farms help keep food costs down and that animal welfare is safeguarded.

Not surprisingly these speakers took a blinkered view, yet any close analysis of the mega-farm model reveals that, rather than being an answer to the developing food crisis, it is actually a key driver of rising food prices across the globe.  In addition they have many other damaging impacts; from pollution, to heavy water usage, impacts on local communities and employment, and the effects on the animals involved.

The mega-farm model is popular with big agribusinesses because it allows them to produce the cheap food supermarkets want and to make larger profits by externalising costs.  These costs include the full impact of pollution, disruptions to people’s lives and the risk to public health.  These costs are paid for by us.

The tax system encourages the growth of the mega-farm industry in that it provides a massive subsidy to energy-intensive large-scale farming, over more labour-intensive, and smaller-scale pasture and mixed farming.  How?  Because energy use, especially reactive nitrogen fertiliser (which accounts for half of all energy use in agriculture) and red diesel, both come in at a low tax rate.  Whereas labour is highly taxed, so time is expensive.  We need instead, to tax pollution and fossil fuel use, and encourage reliable and skilled employment.

Big agribusiness uses its financial muscle to buy animal feed, both on the local and world market.  Land that should be used to grow food for people is instead widely used to grow animal feed.  Industrial animal farming and its demand for grain and soya for animal feed is a key factor in global food price rises.

As well as huge inputs of food this industrial farming is also heavily reliant on water and drugs, such as antibiotics, and produces large amounts of toxic waste.  The lessons from America, where this sort of farming is much more prevalent, are troubling.  Industrial farming practises there have required massive amounts of antibiotics.  There is increasing evidence of a link between antibiotic use in animals and resistance in people. The UK chief medical officer Sally Davies has given voice to her concern about the increase in antibiotic resistance in people.  Are we really willing to risk this absolutely vital class of drugs to have a bit more cheap meat on our plates?

Animal welfare is also about much more than health, something the supporters of these farms don’t seem to understand.  The industrial dairy cow can no longer live on grass and suffers from numerous ‘production diseases’ as well as high levels of lameness and mastitis.  This disease led to the destruction of far more cattle in the UK than bovine TB, about which the Government professes such concern.

In these massive mega-farm units, animals are unable to express their natural behaviour; cows can’t graze, pigs can’t root around. We are dealing here with sentient beings, not machines. We know animals feel frustration when unable to behave naturally; they get bullied in large groups and feel fear and distress.  If you have seen cows in pasture you will see a contentment you will not see in factory farms.

Small farms, in their current form, are far from perfect – partly because they struggle on tiny margins, and these large scale units will further impact negatively on small local farmers.  But it is they who can sustainably provide their local markets with food season by season, as they have done for thousands of years.

There is no doubt we will see more of these units come up for planning approval in the near future, and the Green Party is committed to fighting them.  The Government has already shown it will ride roughshod over publSupermarketsic opinion and the real facts on cost. Only Greens understand the need for our agriculture to head in a fundamentally different direction, to support local production and local markets.  We need to be reducing our reliance on imports, regulating the middle men and the supermarkets.  We need to ensure that smaller scale producers get a fair deal, and produce the healthy food we need, create jobs, look after our precious landscapes and wildlife and make a decent living.  Only then will our food supply be secure.

[Mike Shipley, with thanks to Caroline Allen]

Natalie Bennett’s Address in Derby 24th September 2013

Natalie Bennett DerbySpeaking to a well attended audience in Derby, Natalie Bennett catalogued the inadequacy of the Labour Party’s response to a range of political issues that are affecting people’s lives.  Contrasting the reality of fuel poverty that is becoming a reality for a growing number of people with the huge profits being made by the big energy companies, she condemned Labours proposal for a two year price freeze as inadequate.

‘After two years, then what?’ she asked. ‘The Green Party proposes a national energy conservation programme funded by the Government.  This will lead to permanently reduced energy bills and to lower carbon emissions.  The insulation programme will create sustainable jobs, taking people out of fuel poverty and off benefit.’ 

‘Labour want to see the minimum wage enforced.’ She said.  ‘We know that people cannot hope to manage on a minimum wage, that is why we want to see it raised to a Living Wage, that enables people to meet their necessary weekly costs.  This policy is supported by 70% of people.

‘Labour have no commitment to re-nationalise the railways to ensure that investment goes where it is needed to build a system that meets demand.  This is Green policy and it is supported by 75% of people.

‘Greens support a publicly funded NHS free at the point of delivery.  Labour has made no commitment to reverse the coalition policy of sell-off of the NHS.  ‘‘Labour is backing fracking, ignoring that we must leave half of all known reserves of fossil fuels in the ground to prevent catastrophic climate change.’

Natalie went on to criticise the economic strategy of the three big parties.  There was she said no evidence of fundamental change in economic strategy from any of them.  They were all supporting the creation of a low wage economy that was only possible with the availability of cheap fossil fuels.  This she explained allowed cheap food and goods to be transported to this country, pricing local production out of the market.  ‘This failed economic strategy has left half a million people in this country, the sixth richest in the world, dependent on food banks.’

She reminded the meeting about the causes of the economic crisis.  ‘The bail out of the banks took huge amounts of public money.  Yet the banks were bailed out with no guarantees that they would reform their activities, stop high risk investments and end the bonus culture.  If the economic strategy proposed by the Green Party in 2010 had been implemented, we would now be seeing investment by the banks in sustainable projects that the country needs, creating long term employment to get and keep people in work and off benefit.’

‘We now need to ‘re-localise’ the economy.’  She said that this process had to be accompanied by the restoration of local political power that could rebalance the economy away from London and the south east.  As evidence of this unbalanced economy she told the meeting that there were a million empty homes in the UK yet there was also a housing shortage.  The power of big corporations was concentrating work in the areas that suit themselves having no regard to where people now live.  As a result these economic hot spots drag people in but do not provide the facilities that workers need, hence a chronic shortage of affordable housing.

‘We need thought out regional development strategies that address both economic and social needs, backed with the necessary political power to deliver those strategies.’

‘With rising transport costs and rising wages in the developing world, we are now seeing a ‘re-shoring’ in production, with companies starting to bring production back to the UK.  This offers great opportunities but we must have the economic and political structures in place to ensure that business properly pays its way.’  Natalie explained that with a clear political determination, big business could be made to address and pay for its impact on the environment and society.  ‘Greens on Bristol Council have helped to bring in a supermarket levy that collects 8% of turnover to reflect the damaging consequences of supermarkets.  This money is ploughed back in to local small business.’

Flanked by the five East Midland European candidates, Natalie concluded with a review of  the Green Party’s electoral prospects.  ‘We are now a Parliamentary Party.  This has been very important in lifting our national profile.  Latest opinion polls are placing the Greens on 12% and show a clear growth in support, by contrast the Liberal Democrats are now on 10% with their support fading.  With our level of support we could have six MEPs, including one here in the East Midlands.’  Natalie said that recent events had shown that the public were turning away from the three main parliamentary parties and looking to the smaller parties to express a dissatisfaction with traditional politics.  ‘We know that a growing number of people are coming to support Green policy.  Our challenge is to get people to vote for what they believe in, because what they believe in is increasingly Green Party policy.’

Natalie Bennett's Address in Derby 24th September 2013

Natalie Bennett DerbySpeaking to a well attended audience in Derby, Natalie Bennett catalogued the inadequacy of the Labour Party’s response to a range of political issues that are affecting people’s lives.  Contrasting the reality of fuel poverty that is becoming a reality for a growing number of people with the huge profits being made by the big energy companies, she condemned Labours proposal for a two year price freeze as inadequate.

‘After two years, then what?’ she asked. ‘The Green Party proposes a national energy conservation programme funded by the Government.  This will lead to permanently reduced energy bills and to lower carbon emissions.  The insulation programme will create sustainable jobs, taking people out of fuel poverty and off benefit.’ 

‘Labour want to see the minimum wage enforced.’ She said.  ‘We know that people cannot hope to manage on a minimum wage, that is why we want to see it raised to a Living Wage, that enables people to meet their necessary weekly costs.  This policy is supported by 70% of people.

‘Labour have no commitment to re-nationalise the railways to ensure that investment goes where it is needed to build a system that meets demand.  This is Green policy and it is supported by 75% of people.

‘Greens support a publicly funded NHS free at the point of delivery.  Labour has made no commitment to reverse the coalition policy of sell-off of the NHS.  ‘‘Labour is backing fracking, ignoring that we must leave half of all known reserves of fossil fuels in the ground to prevent catastrophic climate change.’

Natalie went on to criticise the economic strategy of the three big parties.  There was she said no evidence of fundamental change in economic strategy from any of them.  They were all supporting the creation of a low wage economy that was only possible with the availability of cheap fossil fuels.  This she explained allowed cheap food and goods to be transported to this country, pricing local production out of the market.  ‘This failed economic strategy has left half a million people in this country, the sixth richest in the world, dependent on food banks.’

She reminded the meeting about the causes of the economic crisis.  ‘The bail out of the banks took huge amounts of public money.  Yet the banks were bailed out with no guarantees that they would reform their activities, stop high risk investments and end the bonus culture.  If the economic strategy proposed by the Green Party in 2010 had been implemented, we would now be seeing investment by the banks in sustainable projects that the country needs, creating long term employment to get and keep people in work and off benefit.’

‘We now need to ‘re-localise’ the economy.’  She said that this process had to be accompanied by the restoration of local political power that could rebalance the economy away from London and the south east.  As evidence of this unbalanced economy she told the meeting that there were a million empty homes in the UK yet there was also a housing shortage.  The power of big corporations was concentrating work in the areas that suit themselves having no regard to where people now live.  As a result these economic hot spots drag people in but do not provide the facilities that workers need, hence a chronic shortage of affordable housing.

‘We need thought out regional development strategies that address both economic and social needs, backed with the necessary political power to deliver those strategies.’

‘With rising transport costs and rising wages in the developing world, we are now seeing a ‘re-shoring’ in production, with companies starting to bring production back to the UK.  This offers great opportunities but we must have the economic and political structures in place to ensure that business properly pays its way.’  Natalie explained that with a clear political determination, big business could be made to address and pay for its impact on the environment and society.  ‘Greens on Bristol Council have helped to bring in a supermarket levy that collects 8% of turnover to reflect the damaging consequences of supermarkets.  This money is ploughed back in to local small business.’

Flanked by the five East Midland European candidates, Natalie concluded with a review of  the Green Party’s electoral prospects.  ‘We are now a Parliamentary Party.  This has been very important in lifting our national profile.  Latest opinion polls are placing the Greens on 12% and show a clear growth in support, by contrast the Liberal Democrats are now on 10% with their support fading.  With our level of support we could have six MEPs, including one here in the East Midlands.’  Natalie said that recent events had shown that the public were turning away from the three main parliamentary parties and looking to the smaller parties to express a dissatisfaction with traditional politics.  ‘We know that a growing number of people are coming to support Green policy.  Our challenge is to get people to vote for what they believe in, because what they believe in is increasingly Green Party policy.’

Life in Modern Britain

Peter mug-shot crop 1Peter Allen, who was a candidate in the County Elections this year, wrote the following letter to the Glossop Chronicle:


Dear Editor

A read through the pages of your latest edition tells us much about life in modern Britain as well as in Glossop itself:

– local residents trying to stop encroachment on precious green space by a housing development which will build homes which few of the local people who desperately need secure homes will be able to afford.

– local councils fearing that they will be unable to continue to provide even a basic level of essential services as a result of never ending cuts imposed by central government.

– the best employment apparently on offer being in a new supermarket being opened on the site of another closed local pub, probably offering jobs on a “flexible” basis to school leavers amongst others (well done to all those who passed their A levels ) who will be starting adult life full of hope and ambition but also fearful of the level of debts they will be taking on should they decide to go to university and knowing that good jobs are few and far between, as the latest figures on youth unemployment confirm.

– meanwhile in one of the richest (but also one of the most unequal) societies in the world one of the few ” growth industries” are food banks, supported not just by small businesses routed in their community but also by Asda supermarket, owned by Walmart, which built its empire in the USA on the basis of low wages and union busting but which now seeks “added value” by claiming credit for passing on donations made by those who shop in its store

Peter Allen
Derbyshire Green Party

Green SoundBite – Say No to Fracking

New SoundBites

Ministers are hoping to speed up Britain’s shale gas “revolution” by taking away powers from local councils to decide on controversial fracking projects.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/gas/9744917/Local-councils-to-be-stripped-of-right-to-decide-on-fracking.html

Saving our best soils for growing food

On my doorstep in Mickleover, Derby, developers have submitted an outline planning application for 300+ new homes on Hackwood Farm.  This area is not in Derby’s Preferred Growth Strategy and at least 70 local residents have submitted written objections to the plans.

View of Hackwood Farm

Hackwood Farm

Safeguard our Soils, Mr. Pickles!
Because of the deliberate weakening of local planning control by the Coalition Government, greenfield sites all over the country are now at risk from private development.  Many, possibly most, of these sites at risk are on good agricultural land. In response to this, Carole Shorney, who is Secretary of SE Essex Organic Gardeners launched a petition, “Safeguard our Soils, Mr. Pickles!” following advice from the CPRE and Soil Association, the full text of which is below.

http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Safeguard_our_Soils_Mr_Pickles/?launch

The following is taken from information given by Carol.  She states that this petition is asking Mr Eric Pickles MP, the Secretary of State for Communities and LoSave our soilscal Government, to include a specific direction in the NPPF to plan positively for the future use of Best and Most Versatile agricultural land (BMV) for benefits beyond food production. Areas covered should include increased biodiversity and an increased level of resilience for agriculture in order to maximise UK production sustainably. As  things stand, this valuable, productive land has very little protection against development.

We must accept that Britain cannot go on relying on world markets for our food. Global demand is rising, prices are rising and with the effects of climate change becoming apparent, harvests are declining.  Britain therefore needs a stable, secure food supply, with short distance from field to plate.  Over the next 50 years, food and farming face the stark challenge of providing better nutrition for more people in spite of rapid environmental change, while cutting our diet’s impact on natural resources, ecosystems and the climate. This calls for changes in our eating habits, reductions in food waste and improvements in food production. We want to make sure organic and other agro ecological approaches are at the heart of efforts to achieve this.  We must therefore protect our best agricultural land.

It used to be the case in England that the grade of agricultural land was a prime consideration for planners and local authorities in allocating sites for development.  However, changes to planning policy in the late 1980’s downgraded the importance of agricultural land classifications in planning, in response to the more globalised market for food that had developed.  This level of attention to quality of land was no longer needed.  The DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) report http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Document.aspx?Document=9905_SP1501finalreport.pdf demonstrates that before the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), Local Planning Authorities didn’t have the tools they needed to protect our best agricultural land from development – and the NPPF has done nothing to improve planning policy to address this.

As Green Party supporters, we need to be aware of the threat to good agricultural land in Derbyshire, particularly close to main centers of population, and campaign to oppose major development. This is another example of how short term private gain is being put ahead of the long term interests of the rest of society and future generations. We need change before any more agricultural land is offered to/bought up by developers.

Jean Macdonald

Don’t forget to sign the petition
http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Safeguard_our_Soils_Mr_Pickles/?launch

Tories commit planning suicide – again

Let’s be very clear, this is a dysfunctional coalition government desperately seeking measures to divert attention from the real problem – that economic plan A [austerity] isn’t working. The end game is now apparent, be it tomorrow or 2015, Labour can win the next general election, especially if, with Gordon out of the way, it signs a provisional pact with the Lib Dems.          

The latest diversion, to blame the lack of ‘growth’ on planning, is plain daft – and they’ve tried it before. They try to think that it is ‘red tape’ that is holding back growth, not the banks or their austerity policies.

For every large extension that isn’t refused or moderated by planning, there will be two happy persons: the home-owner and the contractor. There will be between 2 and 5 very unhappy persons:- the neighbours to the sides and at the back. The emotions of the latter will be stronger and linger longer than those of the home-owner. Democratically unsound…

For every green field in the green belt approved for a housing estate on previously ‘guaranteed countryside’, there will be two transient beneficiaries – the landowner and the contractor. There will be a whole village or market town’s worth of very angry people. Their anger will be even greater and last longer if the houses are for well off incomers and not, as previously promised, at least in part for local people in need. Another democratic disaster in waiting…

Bear in mind that the Tories learnt these lessons in the past:-

  • In 1988, Nicolas Ridley (not the one burnt at the stake) rescued a by election by agreeing to distinguish in planning between local need and open market. Thus the affordable housing system was born leading to thousands of targeted houses. To throw that way is as ill-considered as his own simultaneous attempt to protect his own backyard.
  • On at least two occasions, the Tories have proposed loosening the green belt. Each time a few growls from their very own faithful “saved” the green belts.
  • In 2010, they launched a bonfire of planning policies which had been developed with great care and consensus over 50 years. As per the usual tactic, they backed off a bit to give the impression that they were listening. The National Trust and the CPRE rather fell for it and accepted that their concerns about greenbelt and rural development had been met. But the house-builders / landowners weren’t satisfied. Thus a second attempt to push for greenbelt development, in the name of ‘growth’.

They must be either very desperate or very silly to try these tricks again

The real answer is well proven. The Housing Corporation used to sign off £millions of grants for housing schemes every year that met the real need and kept thousands of workers in work. The money was provided and this was a sound investment in durable infrastructure. The money is there today, there isn’t really a deficit – just tax the tax avoiders; tax aviation fuel and air ticket sales; cancel Trident and nuclear power; invest in renewables to generate revenue and reduce imports; create green jobs and reduce the dole and generate taxable income. And then – Bob’s your uncle. A happy 90% and the planet saved. Oh yes – and the next election won!

© John Youatt September 2012.