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Conservationists answer minister’s plea for help over planning reform

8 September 2011

Nik Shelton
Media Officer

Environmental groups today held a summit with planning minister Greg Clark to discuss the Government’s controversial planning reform proposals.

Commenting after the meeting arranged by Wildlife and Countryside Link, RSPB Chief Executive Mike Clarke said: “I was glad to have the chance to convey to the Minister the fundamental concerns shared by a wide range of conservation organisations.

“Greg Clark recognised there were serious issues to resolve and that some of the fundamental principles of the proposals are unclear.

“At the heart of this debate, is a distortion of the idea of sustainable development and how the planning system ensures that the public interest is met.

“The RSPB deals with more than 650 planning cases a year and I, personally, have taken part in many planning enquiries, so I know first hand how Government rhetoric and weasel worded policy statements can lead to the wrong development in the wrong place. The Government is clearly not close enough to the day to day reality of the planning process otherwise it would understand our concern.

“The Minister told us that the Government's position on sustainable development has not changed but the policy presumption in his proposals does not reflect this. The policies also ignore the Government's own economic appraisal of the natural environment contained in the National Ecosystems Assessment. Far from being a constraint, our environmental assets are vital to economic well-being.

“I welcome Mr Clark’s invitation to help clarify these issues. But the Government as a whole has to recognise the importance of the environment in its economic thinking, and unambiguous guidance has to be given to local authorities and planning inspectors.

“I’m very pleased that Greg Clark has been so open with us and has invited us to help him redraft these proposals so they deliver for both the economy and the environment, and we will call on all available resources to ensure this process is successful.”