Groups vow to fight the planning shake-up, which they fear could lead to ’unchecked’ expansion

Conservation groups have signalled their intent to fight government plans, outlined by the government this week, to make the planning system more pro-development.

The National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England were among many environmental groups to signal strong opposition to the proposals for the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), described as the biggest planning shake-up in 50 years, which says planning applications should be approved unless there are very good reasons not to.

Developers welcomed the draft framework, but outlined concerns about how effective a number of the measures will be in unlocking progress. As expected, the draft included a presumption in favour of development, and said councils had to set aside 20% more land for new housing.

It proposes that any local plans should ensure that planning obligations allow sites to provide an “acceptable return” to landowners offering land for development.

The National Trust said it had “grave concerns” this will lead to “unchecked and damaging development”. The CPRE has already threatened to take the government to court over its proposal, contained in the Localism Bill, to explicitly allow councils to take account of financial considerations when making planning decisions.

Rachel Fisher, head of policy at Design Council Cabe, said the body supported the principle of the changes but the “problematic” wording of the presumption in favour “doesn’t really live up to” the government’s commitment to sustainability.

Decentralisation minister Greg Clark declined to say if he will fight the conservationists, but maintained that the presumption in favour was “sorely needed”.

He said: “Development must be sustainable: environmentally, socially and economically. I don’t see any necessary tension between economic growth and the environment.”

Clark also denied the NPPF would lead to more planning applications being decided in the courts.

NPPF recommendations:

Presumption in favour: Permission should be granted if proposals accord with statutory plans or, otherwise, unless “the adverse impacts of allowing development would significantly outweigh the benefits”.

Viability: “Local planning authorities… should assess the likely cumulative impacts on development in their area of all existing and proposed local standards” providing an “acceptable” return for landowners.

Housing: The five-year supply of land should include “an additional allowance of at least 20% to ensure choice and competition in the market for land”.