“Beauty spots spoilt by rise in new homes”

“Scenic areas are being blighted by new housing, with the number of homes approved in protected landscapes doubling in five years, a study has found.

The Cotswolds and High Weald areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) are facing the greatest threat. Developers target the areas because new homes within them sell at a 30 per cent premium to homes outside.

The number of homes given planning permission in England’s 34 AONBs has risen by 82 per cent in five years, from 2,396 in 2012-13 to 4,369 in 2016-17, says research commissioned by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). Applications for 12,741 homes in AONBs are pending.

The CPRE said the threat was not just from new homes on greenfield sites but the conversion of existing farm buildings into what it described as “mega-houses” for the very wealthy, who install high fences, CCTV, warning signs and automatic gates. The report said: “These urbanising elements can reduce public enjoyment and make the countryside much less welcoming.”

The CPRE said developers were “exploiting poorly defined and conflicting national planning policy” in order to build in AONBs.

The government’s planning guidelines state that “great weight should be given to conserving landscape and scenic beauty” in AONBs. This year’s Conservative manifesto vowed to build more homes but also to maintain the AONBs’ “existing strong protections”.

But guidelines state that major development can be permitted in the areas in “exceptional circumstances” and where it would be in the public interest. These terms are not clearly defined, creating loopholes for developers to exploit.

The CPRE said local councils were under pressure to find land for housing “irrespective of any constraints imposed by protected landscape policies”.

The report said there had been “a shift in the emphasis of planning practice from landscape protection to addressing the housing shortage”.

The CPRE urged the government to amend planning policy to include an explicit presumption against proposals for large housing developments in AONBs. It called for targets to be set in the long-promised 25-year environment plan to ensure that development did not damage landscape quality.

The Department for Communities and Local Government declined to respond directly to the CPRE’s recommendations.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)