Rather to their credit the Daily Telegraph have published an article this morning by Hank Dittmar, the Chief Executive of the Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment. (They call him "Frank" but never mind.) It is to their credit as the central thrust of the article is supportive of the Government's proposals for more localism and less bureaucracy in the planning system – something the Telegraph have been running a misguided and dishonest campaign against.
But (as the Telegraph seize on) Hank does not believe the changes are perfect.
The final issue that has caused great consternation is the Coalition’s presumption in favour of sustainable development, which despite being essential, suffers from a lack of clarity about what is meant by the much-abused word “sustainable”. The NPPF uses the accepted international definition: not impairing choices for future generations, as well as taking account of social, environmental and economic factors. At the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment, we call this complex of factors “community capital” – but to this three-legged stool, we add a fourth leg: built capital. By this we mean the qualities that make a place worth living in: design that reflects local character; walkable streets and squares framed by buildings and nature; accessible shops, parks, schools and services; and a mix of housing and uses. It is vital that the NPPF addresses these factors, since it is they that create the opportunity for social and economic vitality and environmental improvement.
These points should be taken seriously. If we want to win popular support for development then we need to offer development that is beautiful rather than ugly. That is the way to move on from the debate being presented as pro development/anti development. Localism will help.