Our history in planning

We're more traditionally known for our conservation work © John Millar

We're more traditionally known for our conservation work

Before our planning campaign in 2011, many people wouldn’t have associated the National Trust with planning – in recent decades we’ve become best known for our historic properties, and conservation work. Planning is, however, a significant part of our history and origins, and we were important advocates of a planning system as long ago as the 1920s.

We were founded in 1895 in response to the lack of provision for the preservation of naturally beautiful or historically significant places – in short, these places were under threat because there was no planning system to weigh up the significance of places, and judge developments’ appropriateness accordingly.

In the 1920s, development pressures were threatening to force ‘ribbon development’ on areas like London – fortunately a group of conservationists had the foresight to sound the alarm and warn against this. Many of them were associated with the National Trust.

The Town and Country Planning Act was passed in 1947, putting in place a system that, while it developed problems regarding efficiency and complexity in recent years, has been credited with safeguarding the swathes of English countryside that remain beautiful, productive and economically and ecologically important today.

A planning system really helps
Planning makes a huge contribution in various contexts, from countryside and heritage protection to urban and rural regeneration and economic prosperity; from community involvement to protecting and strengthening local character. An effective planning system has really helped us to achieve our conservation work in managing the impacts of land and development in the wider local environment and landscapes beyond our boundaries.

While we supported the Government’s ambition of streamlining and simplifying this system in their proposed planning reforms of 2011, the draft was weighed heavily in favour of economic development, did not adequately define sustainable development and contained a default ‘yes’ to development. Consequently, it could have created huge threat to our environment and sustainable development principles, greater uncertainty and delay for participants, and the removal of power from local people.

Any undermining of the principles of planning that we’ve always supported was clearly a threat to our core purpose of protecting the nation’s special places, for ever, for everyone. That’s why we fought a hard campaign to secure key changes to the draft National Planning Policy Framework and see a more balanced, final document with references to sustainable development.