The British Property Federation has issued a stern response to accusations made in the Daily Telegraph that it is colluding with ministers of proposed planning reforms.
The Telegraph today published a leaked email from the BPF in which said it had “earned more brownie points than we could ever imagine” by helping planning minister Greg Clark in providing vocal support for the draft National Planning Policy Framework.
The leaked email admitted Mr Clark was “deeply concerned” at the level of opposition provoked by the National Trust and claimed the minister was worried Number 10 would be scared into another policy u-turn, similar to that on the forests sell-off.
It said: “The upshot of all this is that…Greg Clark is delighted with the BPF and hugely grateful for our effort.
“He is of the opinion that the Chancellor will stand firm in the face of opposition from National Trust members in the shires – but he doesn’t believe we can afford to let up and should seize every opportunity to press the case for planning reform.”
In a letter to the Telegraph BPF chief executive Liz Peace dismissed the paper’s accusations of collusion.
The letter said:
“It’s quite unusual but for once we actually agree with something that the government is promoting and so it is not surprising that we are giving it our support. We talk to CLG ministers fairly regularly and they made the point that if we did indeed support the NPPF then we ought to make sure our voice was heard alongside the vociferous anti lobby. That didn’t seem an unreasonable point since generally those against a policy are more vociferous than those who support something and it is always more difficult to get the ‘pro’ lobby excited enough to do something about it.
“I don’t accept that this amounts to collusion – it’s simply us doing our job to support the interests of our members. And equally I don’t think it is unreasonable for a minister to have said that he was pleased we were mobilising support. As for ‘brownie points’, it is always good to be able to support the government when they are doing something that we approve of and we would like to think that this would at least mean we are listened to in the future when we have some less supportive comments to make – though we are not naïve enough to think that that would actually turn out to be the case.
“On the broader subject of the content of the NPPF, it’s worth stressing that this is a consultation document. We don’t think it’s perfect and we believe there is scope for improvement and hopefully some degree of meeting of minds with the National Trust, CPRE and others. We are actually hosting a seminar with Greg Clark and Dame Fiona later this month and we are keen that this should explore areas where the business and the development industry and the National Trust might actually agree.
“We did not write the NPPF and indeed were not consulted during its drafting. This Planning Advisory Group that prepared a draft that was submitted to CLG and which was used as the basis for what they put out comprised a planning consultant, who is actually a BPF member although he did not share his thinking with us, a house builder, a representative from the Local Government Group and a representative from the RSPB.”