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Campaigners fear green gaps ‘could be lost forever’

Published in the Portsmouth News on Thursday 6th October 2011

COUNTRYSIDE campaigners have warned that developers could be given a ‘free-for-all’ because of Havant council’s current planning rules.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England said green gaps between towns could be swallowed up by homes in the wake of the government changes to planning.

Havant Borough Council has a target to build 6,300 homes over the next two decades.

But the CPRE is worried as no sites have yet been officially identified to accommodate these homes.

It says developers could be granted permission for controversial applications, especially as the government wants to introduce new, simpler national planning rules by April of next year.

Local CPRE spokesman John Briggs said: ‘For a local plan to be up to date under the new national planning rules, it must detail specific sites for development.

‘The council has yet to complete its work on the site allocations document.

‘That leaves this borough in a mess where developers call all the shots and councillors have almost no option but to say “yes” to developments that would not normally pass muster.

‘We fear a free-for-all where developers and their lawyers will exploit gaps in planning policy.’

Council leaders said potential sites for development will have been identified and made public by the end of this year.

The sites will be officially adopted into planning policy in 2014.

Havant’s deputy leader David Guest said its house-building plan recognised ‘protected land’ such as sites of special scientific interest and nature conservation areas, flood risk areas as well as green fields and local gaps.

‘However, the overriding planning presumption remains that anyone can apply for planning consent at any time to build anything anywhere,’ he said.

‘If anyone wants to proceed with an application against adopted policy, planning law and advice from a local planning authority, they are probably wasting their time and money.

‘As far as the “feared” free-for-all is concerned, this would be the case if planning policy was not in place to control such eventuality.

‘There is no uncertainty in Havant.

‘Adopted policy is the way forward.’

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