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Planning reform: Stop mud-slinging and start listening

Last modified: 05 September 2011

Bluebells in woodland, RSPB Minsmere

Ministers must end mud-slinging over planning reform and clarify their mixed messages.

That’s the message from the RSPB after days of heated public debate on the Government’s controversial National Planning Policy Framework proposals.

Environmental groups have been labelled ‘nihilistic’ and ‘semi hysterical’ by Coalition politicians as they raise concerns over the Government’s plan for a revamped planning system.

In particular the RSPB and others are concerned about the so called ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ which signals a shift towards putting economic benefits above environmental concerns when it comes to giving planning applications the green light, even where doing so would threaten nationally important wildlife sites.

Over the weekend chancellor George Osborne weighed into the debate saying the Government was ‘determined to win the battle’ on planning reform. Meanwhile planning minister Greg Clark has said he willing to meet with campaigners to discuss their concerns.

Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: “The Government must be prepared to listen to groups who are concerned about the direction these reforms are taking us.

“Public mud slinging from ministers is no way to lay the foundations for a reasoned debate on what is set to be a far reaching piece of government legislation. As campaigning charities representing millions of members of the public who are concerned about our countryside we have a right to make our views known - and ministers have a responsibility to listen.

“In one ear we hear Greg Clark’s offer to sit down and talk through the issues at stake – but in the other we hear the chancellor George Osborne digging his heels in and refusing to compromise on the proposals. These kind of mixed messages must be confusing for the public who are, quite rightly, demanding a robust, in depth debate on these proposals before they come into force.

“Our concerns are not unreasonable. We are happy for the planning system to be streamlined, and we agree that there is a legitimate need for housing and space must be made available for development - but that development must not cause irreparable damage to special places that support our native wildlife.

“In the name of reasoned democratic debate, let’s put the rhetoric and the insults behind us now so that we can sit down and find a solution that supports economic recovery and protects nature.”

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