Tougher planning rules foreseen in national landscapes review

Farmers operating in areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs) could face tougher planning controls, if government acts on the recommendations of a review of national parks and AONBs just published.

The review, which was launched in May 2018, coincides with the 70th anniversary of the National Parks being created and has been conducted under the chairmanship of London Evening Standard associate editor, Julian Glover.

See also: National parks review must not neglect rural business, says CLA

It runs to 168 pages and includes 27 different proposals, one of which is to provide “a strengthened place for national landscapes in the planning system, with AONBs given statutory consultee status”.

“The ability to control and/or influence development that would have an adverse impact on our national landscapes is crucial,” says the review.

“We feel a number of areas of planning need addressing.

Stronger voice

While applauding the way National Parks authorities operate to protect landscapes while allowing sufficient development to go ahead, the review says AONBs need a stronger voice in planning.

“The pressures on AONBs are often greater, especially in the South East, and their voice is not always heard.

“They should not become responsible for day-to-day decisions on planning, as National Parks are.

“But AONB bodies should become statutory consultees in the planning system. They need to be formally consulted on planning cases and have a formal voice in the decision-making process.”

This would help ensure good design and appropriate mitigation requirement relating to developments within AONBs.

But the report goes further, suggesting there needs to be a review of permitted development rights (PDRs) within both National Parks and AONBs.

If necessary, some PDRs should be withdrawn “to ensure that the full application process applies before determining planning approval”.

“For example, forestry and agricultural changes allowed under permitted development can have significant impacts on landscape quality… and these should be reviewed,” it says.

Catastrophic decline

Beyond the issue of planning, the review also sets out the case for national landscapes (National Parks and AONBs) to be given a central place in the planned new Environmental Land Management system (ELMs), which will replace direct payments to farmers post Brexit.

“Four decades of production and area-based support through the CAP has resulted in a catastrophic decline in nature in our national landscapes.

“The decision to focus future public money on public goods presents a major opportunity to help our National Parks and AONBs.”

The review also seeks to extend some AONBs to take on National Park status (notably the Chilterns, the Cotswolds and Dorset/East Devon AONB).

It also suggests the creation of a National Landscapes Housing Association to build affordable homes, a 1,000-strong ranger service and an expansion of open access rights.

Defra secretary Theresa Villers said she welcomed and agreed with the ambition showed in the review “which is in line with our 25-year Environment Plan”, and she would now consider the recommendations.

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