Tackling the housing crisis

View of Stroud from Rodborough Common, Gloucestershire

In Spring 2018 the Government consulted on proposed changes to the planning system as part of its plans to tackle the housing crisis.

Why this is significant for the National Trust

Land-use planning is a key tool to help us look after the nation's special places. It also plays an important role in creating great places for people to live, and delivering a healthier, more beautiful natural environment – two key parts of our strategy.  

Changes to planning policy can potentially impact our ability to look after special places for ever, for everyone.

What we think a good planning system looks like

We believe a planning system should take a holistic approach to the environment and empower communities to have their say in where housing and infrastructure goes in their areas. We want to see thriving rural communities and sustainable homes for this generation and the next. 

In our view development should be:

•    Plan-led: adhering to the locally-created Local Plan ensures homes are sited in the right locations and prevents the ‘planning by appeal’ approach that pits residents against developers.
•    Balanced: decisions about where development goes should not be weighted purely in the interests of the economy but should be economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable.
•    Sensitive: development should not compromise our much-loved open spaces and green fields, nor our historic city centres, towns and villages.

What are the key issues for the Trust in this consultation?

We want to see developers building homes faster where planning permission has been granted. If those homes aren’t built, Local Authorities could be put under pressure to release more land to meet their housing needs, which risks inappropriate and unplanned development. 

The government is proposing a new method for local councils to use in calculating how many homes they need in their areas. We’re concerned that this will result in more land being allocated for housing in areas containing our most significant protected landscapes, like Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or Sites of Special Scientific Interest. 

The Trust wants to help rural communities thrive, but we fear proposed changes around rural exception sites will undermine the provision of genuinely affordable housing for local people in rural areas. 

We welcome the frequent assurances from Government that they are committed to protecting the Green Belt. This vital space provides a buffer between our towns and cities, and the Trust has been an advocate for it since 1875 when our founder, Octavia Hill, first proposed it in London.

We don’t want to see the Green Belt eroded for inappropriate development, and are pleased to see that Local Authorities will have to demonstrate very special circumstances before they amend their Green Belt boundaries.