Architect says NPPF could lead to ‘merging’ of major cities

Architect Richard Rogers has hit out at the government’s proposed changes to the planning system, saying they will lead to unsustainable urban sprawl which could “scar the country for generations.”

In an interview with the Times, the former chair of the Urban Task Force said that the proposals in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) could damage both cities and the countryside, and lead to cities such as Bristol and Bath or Milton Keynes and Birmingham merging into one another.

Lord Rogers said: “Cities and countryside are two sides of the same coin – we need to conserve both. The reason we want beautiful hills and scenery is because we often live in cities and see them as our safety valve and escape.

“If the [NPPF] framework is not greatly improved it will lead to the breakdown and fragmentation of cities and neighbourhoods as well as the erosion of the countryside.”

He added that policy should focus on the re-use of existing land, to regenerate and repair sites, which he said was “so much more sustainable.”

The government has committed to re-looking at the NPPF in the light of the concerted campaign from environmental groups against it. The framework proposes introducing a presumption in favour of sustainable development on sites where local plans are silent, indeterminate or out of date. It also calls for more land to be allocated to housing.

Rogers told the Times: “We already have cities beginning to merge, it’s scary. You only need a few house to link up conurbations. We could see Milton Keynes and Birminhgam or Bath and Bristol linking together.”

He used the south of France as an example of where  inadequate planning control had turned a “heavenly” place into a “nightmare”. He said: “It’s about lack of control and care.The place has been spoilt, trashed. We don’t want that happening to Devon, Cornwall or the Lake District.”

The government has repeatedly stated that the NPPF does not reduce the planning protections for green belt land or sites in National Parks