The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has issued a damning response to Government proposals to radically overhaul the planning system.
Members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority dismissed many of the plans set out in a White Paper, which they said would result in local communities having much less say, and at the wrong time, on the types and volume of development around them.
However, the authority also rejected a call by former Richmondshire District Council leader Councillor Yvonne Peacock to give greater weight to parish councils’ views and make the social and economic wellbeing of communities of equal importance to the statutory purposes of the national park, following decades of housing policy failure.
The authority’s chairman, Neil Heseltine said the park authority had considered the question of its socio-economic duty in relation to its two statutory purposes on numerous occasions, but had rejected the move as such issues were the responsibility of district and county councils which covered the park.
He said: “Cllr Peacock will know better than most that the issues connected with housing development and demographic shifts in the population cannot be solved by some magic bullet. They are complex and they are difficult.”
Mr Heseltine added he shared Cllr Peacock’s concerns over under-occupied properties, such as second homes, but said the park authority’s attempts to discuss the matter with Government had been “thwarted by a lack of support from some local authorities and a luke-warm response by many communities”.
He said: “Unless and until these rural issues are taken more seriously by central government that will remain an uphill battle for us all.”
The meeting was told under the Government proposals, the authority would lose control over where properties are built. Members emphasised it was critically important that suggestions all developments would be banned the park did not become a reality.
The authority’s planning committee chair, Julie Martin, said the White Paper proposals would lead to a loss of democratic input when planning applications were considered and it would be difficult to get people involved in helping shape earlier stages in the process.
She said while the proposal to automatically grant planning permission in specific areas would create major environmental issues, such as when archaeological remains were unearthed, the Government’s assumption that the planning system was broken was misguided.
Mrs Martin said the primary motivation of the overhaul appeared to be lack of housing schemes gaining planning permission, but that was not the issue in the Dales.
Development management member champion Jim Munday said government and politicians had perpetuated the myth that the failure to meet housing targets was due to the failure of the planning process.
He said there were 600 homes in the park waiting to be built and last year saw the authority pass 118 home planning permissions, but only 45 were built.
Mr Munday said: “The design guide for the Yorkshire Dales will be settled in Whitehall – that fills me with fear and trepidation. What happens if they get the page for the Norfolk Broads mixed up with the Yorkshire Dales? Very easy. That really is a bit of a joke.”
A report to the meeting stated the White Paper recognised that monotonous housing estates and poor design had been replicated across England to the dissatisfaction of the public and the proposals aimed to achieve “beauty” in design.
North Yorkshire county and Richmondshire councillor Stuart Parsons questioned how the government would define beauty in construction.
He said: “Their insistence on beauty is quite astounding given that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What Boris might find attractive I might find abhorrent.”