28 May 1999

CAguide aims at plan consistency

THE Countryside Agency is to produce new guidelines to help ensure consistency in planning decisions.

"Planners should be helping farmers. If they are not, then they are failing you," the agencys chief executive, Richard Wakefield, told farmers attending the NFUs Farming Economy conference last week.

"The planning vision concept has been replaced by a development control obsession. And we need to work on good practice."

The guidelines would "help even things out" and address the problems of different districts interpreting rules in different ways, and planners who set themselves up as designers, he said.

The basic problem was that planning was about the only thing left that councils had any freedom over, he added. All other decisions were made at a central government level.

The other problem was the lack of farmer representation on councils. "How many farmers are there on local councils today? But how many have the time?

"We need a more imaginative approach to planning than lines on maps," he said.

Mr Wakefield suggested that planners should consider an element of trading. Planners could consider allowing development on sensitive sites in return for applicants restoring brownfield sites to greenfield, he said.