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Planning changes would be welcome step forward, says Worcester MP
PLANS to make major changes to the planning system have been welcomed by Worcester’s MP.
Robin Walker says the changes should protect valued heritage sites from the bulldozer.
The government wants to shake up guidelines for councils next year and give them more powers to refuse applications to develop land.
Under the policy, “locally valued” landscapes and sites regarded as important to an area’s heritage would be safeguarded.
Such a move could be vital in cities like Worcester, where campaigners are protesting over attempts to develop green areas like Middle Battenhall Farm.
Across south Worcestershire, room still needs to be found for another 5,000 properties by 2030 to reach the figure of 28,370 required under a development blueprint.
Business and energy minister Michael Fallon has written to MPs to reveal that changes are now afoot in 2015.
The changes, which are expected to be subject to the Coalition surviving a general election, comes after several changes in planning rules to encourage more building.
And Mr Walker said he was backing Mr Fallon’s proposals.
“I’ve written to him to say I am very supportive of a shift in that direction,” he said.
“I’m very keen that planning focus should be on protecting locally valued heritage sites.
“Certainly there are sites in Worcester that are important and we want to protect.”
Two weeks ago, Dame Helen Ghosh, director general of the National Trust, said councils are being “hustled” into allowing development on greenfield land because of the pressures.
The South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP), which runs to 2030, has just finished a government inspection and councils in Worcester, Malvern and Wychavon need to find room for 5,000 homes before it can be finalised.
Middle Battenhall Farm, one of Worcester’s most popular green lungs, is not earmarked for any properties, but Miller Homes has submitted a planning application to build 200 properties on the site.
It has ran into huge opposition from residents, including from The Battlefields Trust, which says the land played a key role in the Battle of Worcester and needs protection.
Last year changes to planning rules introduced a “presumption of sustainable development” to force through more building.
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