As we hand in a huge petition against planning changes, our campaigns officer Sam Keyte takes a look at the campaign – and what happens next.
By Sam Keyte 8th December 2020 www.cpre.org.uk
CPRE has today partnered with campaigners from Sum of Us and 38 Degrees to head to Westminster, where we handed in our petitions showing your calls for the government to stop disastrous plans to change our planning laws.
We’ve worked with these other campaigning organisations to offer up a chance for people to have their say on the government’s damaging new ideas for our planning system, and the numbers of you signing our petition says it loud and clear: we won’t be silenced.
We launched this campaign in August 2020, when the government published unnecessary and damaging plans that would dismantle the planning rules (if you want to know more about what impact these laws and systems have on our lives, our potted guide will explain all).
‘The numbers of you signing our petition says it loud and clear: we won’t be silenced.’
The ideas that the government had come up with would hand power over to developers, taking it away from local councils and communities – leading to untold levels of damage to the countryside and the people living and working in it.
Local people weren’t happy – our local county groups told us in overwhelming numbers of the grave concerns they had – and our campaign was born. We launched our petition demanding that the government doesn’t silence communities when deciding what gets built and where – and we were delighted to see so many of you getting mobilised and adding your names.
Strength in numbers… big numbers
The combined total number of signatures on the petitions was a whopping 310,265 people. This is an amazing number, demonstrating the huge level of opposition the government is facing from the public in trying to push through changes – changes that can only stand to harm local democracy and our countryside.
We were delighted to see so many of you add your voices and stand up for local democracy
People raising their voices has been a crucial way to build pressure against the government’s ideas and boost momentum since the campaign launched in August. We’re celebrating this brilliant moment for local democracy: rather than let our voices be squeezed out of plans for local building and development, you’ve helped us to assert that local people are here and won’t be silenced.
‘We want to take a moment to celebrate what we have achieved together.’
And so we wanted to thank everyone for being involved in this journey so far. There will be more twists and turns to come, but this is a momentous point of the campaign, and we want to take a moment to celebrate what we have achieved together over the past few months.
In good company
It’s been great to see that we’ve not been alone in realising that the big changes that the Minister for Housing first announced in the summer of 2020 included some very bad ideas. As well as the overwhelming public opposition shown by the petitions, there’s been huge pushback from politicians, including from the government’s own party.
We commissioned a poll of MPs and found that over half of Conservative MPs weren’t happy with the proposals – the same proposals that had come from their own party! So it came as no surprise to us to see a fiery debate in the House of Commons where 46 MPs spoke out against the plans – and even more wanted to, but the debate simply ran out of time.
Of these 46 MPs publicly voicing their unhappiness with the suggested changes, a huge 33 were from the Conservative Party – including former Prime Minister Theresa May. The issues that they were raising were just as we’ve been saying for many months: that the plans would lead to building on green spaces near to where people live (the very local green spaces that have been so important to so many of us during the pandemic year); that fewer homes that people could actually afford to live in would be built; and that the chances for people to get involved in shaping the future of where they live would be eroded.
And it’s not just the government’s own MPs who have problems with the plans. Organisations from across the environmental, housing and planning sectors have come together to say a big NO to the existing proposals. We were one of more than 30 groups who sent a letter to the Prime Minister warning of the disastrous impacts on nature and people if he dismantled the planning system.
We feel like winners
So, after months of intense campaigning (and more to come), where are we now? Here at CPRE, we’re feeling positive and excited about winning this campaign. We know these plans can be changed. We’ve done it all before – we helped local people to stop fracking in its tracks.
And just a week or so ago, the government looked like they are starting to take our concerns seriously, and may be rethinking one of the most damaging parts of the proposals. We’ll be keeping a close eye on these changes and will keep you informed.
2021 is coming. We’ll continue to demonstrate better ways that things can be done and push the government to change these ill-advised plans. The petition we handed in today is a big moment and a great milestone in the campaign. We’re proud to have been able to raise our voices together – and we’ll keep doing it.