Planning: But that is the whole purpose!

Planning…’But that’s the whole point!’

I am a passionate supporter of the Campaign to Protect Rural England.  Here in Herefordshire, it was integral in saving the famous Queenswood woodland in the north of the county from development (back in the 1930s).  It continues to campaign for sustainable developments.

I recently attended a talk at a CPRE meeting.  The speaker had a passion for sustainable energy generation and consumption, both of which, as themes, should be broadly acceptable.  Apparently, energy consumption here in the UK peaked in 2005 and has been steadily reducing since.  Meanwhile, the amount of energy generated from renewable sources is steadily increasing, both in volume and the overall proportion.  The first pioneers of solar roads are emerging, and, in addition to electric cars, we now have buses with solar roofs, able to drive on roads with solar panels in them.  Apparently!

Several years ago, a development was proposed for a village in the county some 5 miles from Hereford.  This would involve building some 75 houses on a green field (not greenbelt, as none exists in Herefordshire).  The houses were to be of the highest specification for energy efficiency and sourcing of sustainable materials, and the project was welcomed by the local authority.  However, the locals were concerned about the lack of infrastructure for the project, insufficient roads, treatment facilities for water, and local amenities being inadequate.  It was unlikely that many of the new residents would be local, and employment opportunities were most likely to be in Hereford itself.  It was quite possible that the new residents would bring at least 150 additional cars and add to the daily commuter congestion.

Our speaker welcomed the proposal as a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate best practice and the latest in cutting edge technology.  However, the CPRE had raised the concerns listed above.  The speaker then reflected, ‘possibly this was totally the wrong site for the proposalMaybe it needed to be in Hereford itself’.

I pondered; surely ensuring a development is suited to the chosen site is a major reason for the planning process!  We can have the best ideas, but if they don’t fit in to the setting, are they not suitable?

When it comes to planning and sustainable opportunities, I think that there are many situations where several properties can enhance a small rural community, rather than plonking an estate in an already large village or the middle of nowhere.  Isn’t that the whole point of planning, and of ‘sustainable development?’