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Rural rage at new planning proposals

[Wednesday 23 May 2007]

AS WE predicted yesterday, the Government's White Paper on plans to "streamline" the planning system were received with angry protests by countryside and wildlife groups who fear that existing safeguards against large-scale developments in rural areas are to be stripped away.

There is now a very great danger that the public's voice in opposing such developments will be stifled


They believe that, if the new proposals were to be accepted, huge developments like airports, windfarms or atomic power stations could be built in open countryside without local people being given the chance to object.

And they could also lead to even more superstores being built on the outskirts of market towns, whose small, locally-owned High Street stores are already struggling to survive - a matter of grave concern in rural areas like the Yorkshire Dales.

Of particular concern to the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) is the proposal to replace the present planning "needs test," which examines if a proposed new supermarket is actually needed in rural areas, by an "impact assessment" to be judged by a newly created Independent Planning Commissions.

The CPRE fears that these planning commissions would be "be strongly influenced by economics and won't have enough people with a robust environmental background."

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds believes that the proposals could be used to swamp important wildlife reserves with airports or atomic powers stations and added: "There is now a very great danger that the public's voice in opposing such developments will be stifled."

And the Wildlife Trusts claim that the new proposals represent a multiple assault on wildlife, adding: "Government plans could devastate wildlife as it struggles to adapt to climate change. For example, recovering otter populations are seriously threatened by collisions on roads and wildlife habitats are lost each year to major development, including landfill sites and reservoirs."

Yesterday also happened to be International Biodiversity Day, on which the developed nations are supposed to be examining the serious problems of encouraging nature to live side by side with intensive industrial development. Several organisations make play of the Government's bad timing in publishing the White Paper at such a time!

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