Welcombe Hills 'under threat' say campaigners

By IH 13/02 Updated: 14/02 13:47

Buy photos » Under threat? The Welcombe Hills. (s)

THE WELCOMBE Hills are among the most development-threatened areas of countryside in Britain claim conservationists.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) recently published a report with detailed new maps showing how the country's countryside could be at increased risk from 'inappropriate' development as a consequence of Government reforms of the planning system.

The Government's draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) proposes removing a policy in place for the past 25 years which has protected much of the countryside from development. CPRE fears if the NPPF is not amended, only a very limited area of countryside nationally would receive some level of protection.

The report claims more than half of countryside across the West Midlands could be at increased risk

including most of Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Staffordshire, and large parts of Shropshire and Herefordshire.

And the Welcome Hills is named in the CPRE report as one area possibly vulnerable to inappropriate development proposals, citing a lack of local planning protection.

The report claims a developer could build "what they like, where they like and when they like" provided they met new national planning guidance.

Gerald Kells, West Midlands Policy Officer for CPRE, said: “We are pleased the Government’s planning reforms will retain protections for specially designated countryside.

"But Ministers have provided no reassurance that the final NPPF will recognise the value of the wider, undesignated countryside that makes up more than half the rural landscape.

“We are not seeking a national policy that would prevent all development. But if we are to avoid damaging the character of rural areas by making it easier for inappropriate, speculative building to take place – a bungalow here, a distribution shed there - decision makers must be encouraged to take account of the intrinsic value of the wider countryside when considering development proposals.

"The imminent changes to the planning system should ensure that it is not only the specially designated areas that are valued.”

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