Reading through the government’s new national planning policy strategy, you might think that they are finally coming good on their promise to be the ‘greenest government ever': “At the heart of the planning system is a presumption in favour of sustainable development, which should be seen as a golden thread running through both plan making and decision taking.”
An excellent starting point. “All plans should be based upon and contain the presumption in favour of sustainable development as their starting point. ”
Except that this is only useful if we have an agreed definition of sustainable development. And we don’t. The paper re-defines sustainable development right at the start, rendering the whole of the remaining document a waste of time: “Sustainable means ensuring that better lives for ourselves don’t mean worse lives for future generations. Development means growth.”
Therefore, since development means growth, the planning system isn’t being re-tooled to serve sustainability, but it’s opposite – economic growth. Shamelessly so. This is a plan to “use the planning system to build a strong, responsive and competitive economy, by ensuring that sufficient land of the right type, and in the right places, is available to allow growth and innovation”
So no, this isn’t about sustainable development, and it’s far from green. It’s bad news for my little park, and for the British countryside generally. And it looks like we have a long way to go on explaining sustainability to the Department of Communities and Local Government. Right now, they have the whole thing backwards.
“The Government is committed to ensuring that the planning system does everything it can to support sustainable economic growth. A positive planning system is essential because, without growth, a sustainable future cannot be achieved.”
Still, at least it’s only a draft, and on previous form, the changes of a U-turn are good.