The Queen's Speech: A mad dash for infrastructure will cost the countryside dearly
Following the Queen’s speech, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) warns of increasing threats to the countryside.
Responding to proposals to increase housing supply Shaun Spiers, chief executive of CPRE said: "We need to provide many more homes to meet the needs of a growing population but we need a robust planning system to ensure they are delivered in the best locations. At present the Government’s planning approach, which too often involves imposing large developments on local communities through planning appeals, is not working. We welcome measures to encourage the reuse of suitably sited public sector land and small housebuilders.
Garden cities may be part of the solution but only if they are locally supported, help regenerate our existing cities and provide significant amounts of genuinely affordable housing."
Responding to proposals to exempt smaller house builders from environmental controls, Shaun Spiers, said: “It is bizarre that in the midst of a national debate about how to meet out energy needs the Government is relaxing rules so that house builders can build new homes that leak energy.
It’s right to support small builders - we’ll never get the homes the country needs if we just rely on half a dozen or so big firms. But why not help them to build sustainably, rather than the sort of draughty, badly-insulated homes that other countries stopped building years ago? This announcement is just storing up trouble for the future. It is bad for fuel poverty and bad for the battle against climate change.
Responding to proposals to that make fracking easier, Shaun Spiers continued: “The Speech also provides more evidence of the Government making life easier for fracking companies at a time when public confidence is at rock-bottom, and when the focus should be on the strongest possible controls to protect the environment and communities. That is not only right in principle, it’s sensible politics if the Government wants to get public consent to fracking.”
Responding to proposals in the Infrastructure Bill to turn the Highways Agency into a company, Ralph Smyth, CPRE’s senior transport campaigner, said: “We are deeply concerned by such a mad dash for roads reform – yet another threat to our countryside from ill-thought infrastructure plans.
The Bill would create a new roads company and lock its funding into law in a drive to deliver the biggest road-building programme in 50 years. This will not only mean further cuts to bus funding and rises in the cost of train tickets, it will also lead to silo thinking, making it harder to join up different forms of transport.
Hundreds of miles of new and widened roads will threaten swathes of countryside, nationally treasured landscapes, ancient woodland and wildlife sites. We need to prioritise improving and reopening rural railways rather than risk damaging our landscapes for little gain.”