This is the Society's letter to the Dept for Communities and Local Government:
We commend the clarity of the English and the brevity of the document but we are convinced that it is not possible to condense such a complex subject into such a small frame. Directions will have to be issued on specialist matters. It is sensible to say that planning decisions should be taken locally but one-third of parish councils do not exist. ... As for urban areas there is no mechanism at all below the district council (unelected "forums" or similar that have been set up would be simply incapable). The majority of councils will have a Local Plan old-style, or a Local Development Framework into which a mass of consultation has gone and public inquiry held. Surely this is local and democratic enough.
Our carbon footprint has to reduce, ethically and by Government promise. Transport, particularly by car to work and leisure, is one area in which planning could deliver savings. Building housing for all on the unused land that exists in urban centres and nearer to work places rather than on green field sites will help that aim. It is implicit that direction to build centrally rather than allow urban spread will be essential.
The Society is keen to see new houses for all, particularly affordable family sized units; the blight of unsold apartments must pass. The low build numbers have many causes - high land price, unaffordable prices with few mortgages, unwillingness of the large house building companies to build because of the poor market, lack of skilled labour and materials. Let no one be persuaded that it is possible to build 200,000 new homes a year. But there is space in the land banks of the eleven largest developers for well over 300,000 houses. There are 165,000 acres of unused brownfield land which could accommodate around 3 million houses. There are 740,000 empty houses; Thus there is plenty of room to build and regenerate houses without sprawling into green areas with no infrastructure. The stated reason for the change in favour of a "presumption for sustainable development" is to kick start our sick economy. But visit Greece, Ireland and Italy where planning laws are less well observed and what do we find? Urban sprawl, empty sites, disused factories and unfinished houses and ... economic failure. Looser planning hasn't worked there. Why should it work here? At best this is a short term solution which should be solved along routes suggested above; otherwise it will lead to the irreversible loss of green fields.
We are also very concerned at the lack of protection granted to the urban fabric - Conservation Areas and Locally Listed buildings as well as Listed structures of all types on English Heritage's various lists. It will become relatively easier to make alterations without consent because it is 'sustainable'. The fabric of all will thus be irrevocably changed and there will be nothing of merit left for our tourists to visit, a major export industry.
The Ipswich Society, whilst recognising the merits of a review of the National Planning Guidelines and Directives, is opposed to unnecessary development just because a developer deems it to be of economic value and opposed to the lack of protection for our historic built environment.