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Planning catastrophe averted

Concerted pressure from a coalition group including the Heath and Hampstead Society has led to an unexpected re-think by the government. 

And the catastrophic consequences facing Hampstead if proposed changes to the UK’s planning system were to become law would appear to have been averted.

The changes set out in the Barker Review’s 180 turgid but frightening pages can only be described in alarmist terms.

Presumption in favour of development 
The changes set out in the Barker Review’s 180 turgid but frightening pages can only be described in alarmist terms.

Most of the 31 recommendations, now incorporated into the White Paper, set alarm bells ringing: presumption in favour of development and ‘proportionality’ in heritage policy will downgrade the importance of historic buildings and streetscapes. And changes to the status of the Green Belt will open up Metropolitan Land on the fringes of the Heath to development.

No-one disputes that economic development is a perfectly valid priority for local authorities. But it should not be the sole priority. Barker appears to have no concept of the need to balance development with community needs.

Potential for corruption 
The proposals will effectively change planning authorities into private consultancies. Making it acceptable to ‘bribe’ the community into accepting inappropriate developments. A state of affairs inimical to good planning, ethically questionable and likely to encourage corrupt practices.

Church Row

Democratic rights 
Barker also suggests setting up a new independent Planning Commission which would take decisions on major infrastructure applications such as airports and new roads. Removing major decisions from democratic scrutiny. Reducing people’s right to have a say in decisions that affect where they live.

United opposition 
However, secondary legislation attached to the White Paper has now circumscribed the proposal to significantly increase permitted development rights. Vindicating the hard work of the coalition against it.

We're not out of the woods just yet, and you can be sure that we are monitoring any further changes, but for the moment at least things look a lot brighter than they did six months ago. 

The Civic Trust’s summary and detailed responses can be read at (Policy and Campaigns section); You can request paper copies from, and contribute any ideas to their PR officer Steve Rackett, or 020 7539 7910.