There has been a lot of lazy journalism in the Daily Telegraph offering acceptance, at face value, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England's. But the CPRE's attacks are not only politically motivated (as has been noted before their Chief Executive is a former Labour Euro MP) but rely not on honest disagreement but misrepresentation.
For instance they have putting out a press release suggesting the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles is putting forward a policy at odds with the one he offered in opposition.
It quotes him, commenting on Gordon Brown’s efforts to liberalise the planning system
in 2004, as saying:
"The Treasury seems … determined to loosen control to make development easier… Adding to suburban sprawl will detract from rather than help urban regeneration and Brownfield redevelopment, and fuel the migration from our towns and cities."
But the quote was specifically about the Green Belt, which the current Government's proposals completely protect. The CPRE have taken it out of context.
In the full comment Eric Pickles said:
GREEN BELT THREAT
The Treasury seems to have its eye on the green belt and is determined to loosen control to make development easier. Locally we have benefited from a policy of a firm green belt, it has kept our communities and villages character intact and enforced a barrier between rural Essex and London
Green Belts were formally introduced by 1955. The then Minister for Housing and Local Government, Duncan Sandys, told Parliament, "I am convinced that, for the well-being of our people and for the preservation of the countryside, we have a clear duty to do all we can to prevent the further unrestricted sprawl of the great." Half a centaury later and Mr Sandy's words still ring true.
In February, it was reported that Labour is planning, for a future Parliament. Ministers believe the population trends are so clear that the Green Belts will have to be relaxed. The strategy was hinted at in the Barker review on housing, published at the time of the chancellor's pre-budget report in November."
Another misleading claim is that there is a consensus of opposition to the Government's proposals from environmental groups. The Telegraph wrote about an "alliance" of groups opposed to the proposals but included those, such as the Countryside Alliance, that are broadly supportive. It also includes the Royal Town Planning Institute – the trade union for planning officers, not an environmental group – also one with a vested interest in the system be as bureucratic as possible to require lots of jobs for planning officers. I have written before about the rage of the RTPI to whistle blowers.
Another group the Telegraph claimed as part of the alliance was English Heritage. But in a letter to the paper this morning this is denied:
SIR – English Heritage is not one of those organisations generally opposed to the Government’s national planning policy framework (NPPF). We support the Government’s aim to concentrate planning policy into a single, short document that will make it more effective.
However, we have made clear to the Government that, as it stands, some parts of the NPPF could reduce heritage protection, and we have been reassured by the its response that this is not what was intended. We are therefore working with the Government to find alternative words to put this right and ensure the future for our heritage.
Chairman, English Heritage