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National Trust rejects government talks on planning detail

The National Trust has turned down the offer of ministerial talks to discuss the detail of the National Planning Policy Framework until government issues a clarifying statement.

Trust representatives met planning minister Greg Clark this morning to discuss the draft NPPF.

Speaking after the meeting National Trust director general Fiona Reynolds said:  “(Mr Clark) invited us to engage now in dialogue about the detail of the NPPF document.

“While we welcome this, we’re not prepared to enter into such talks until we have a clear statement, from the highest levels of government, clarifying that the planning system is not there principally to promote economic development.

“Planning is essential for protecting vital public interests, including the quality of the landscape, respect for environmental limits, and making good places for people to live and work.”

The meeting came after weeks of acrimonious claims about the future of planning, fought through the letters pages of various newspapers.

Ms Reynolds last week described the tone of the draft NPPF as “fundamentally wrong” amid concerns the document would pave the way for unchecked urban sprawl.

Her comments followed those of Chancellor George Osborne and communities secretary Eric Pickles who warned lobbyists not to “underestimate our determination to win this battle” in an article in the Financial Times.

The ministers said argued planning reform was vital to economic recovery.

“Opponents claim, falsely, the government is putting the countryside in peril. We say that sticking with the old, failed planning system puts at risk young people’s future prosperity and quality of life,” the article said.

A National Trust statement issued in response said:  “Osborne and Pickles argue that changes to the planning system are needed to promote house building, but according to the latest figures the percentage of applications approved by local authorities stands at 80%, a 10-year high.”

Mr Clark has long said he will discuss the NPPF with opposition groups but had categorically ruled out a U-turn on the policy.

The Daily Telegraph has launched a Hands Off Our Land campaign to fight the reforms, following its highly critical coverage of ministerial plans to “sell off” the nation’s forests, a policy which was ultimately scrapped.

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