Air qual­ity is not a mat­ter of ‘ide­al­ism’

Kentish Gazette Canterbury & District - - Letters And Opinion -

I agree with David Locke As­so­ci­ates that hav­ing a plan­ning frame­work is im­por­tant to en­sure that de­vel­op­ments ben­e­fit the wider com­mu­nity [Gazette, Oc­to­ber19]. How­ever, whether the cur­rent Na­tional Plan­ning Pol­icy Frame­work and the Can­ter­bury Dis­trict Plan “work for the ben­e­fit of the wider com­mu­nity” is ques­tion­able. David Locke As­so­ci­ates, plan­ning con­sul­tants for the Mount­field Park devel­op­ment, crit­i­cise the “ideals of in­di­vid­u­als” as if these in­di­vid­u­als are not mo­ti­vated by a con­cern for their com­mu­nity.

There has been much crit­i­cism of the cur­rent Na­tional Plan­ning Pol­icy Frame­work. The House of Com­mons Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment and Com­mu­ni­ties Se­lect Com­mit­tee con­cluded that the Na­tional Plan­ning Pol­icy Frame­work does not pre­vent un­sus­tain­able devel­op­ment and re­sults in com­mu­ni­ties be­ing sub­ject to in­ap­pro­pri­ate and un­wanted hous­ing devel­op­ment. Nor does the Plan­ning Frame­work ad­e­quately pro­tect pub­lic health – a point raised by the House of Com­mons Health Se­lect Com­mit­tee.

The challenge to the Can­ter­bury Dis­trict Plan on air qual­ity grounds should not be viewed as a cam­paign by ide­al­is­tic in­di­vid­u­als but one that demon­strates con­cern for the health of the whole com­mu­nity.

Air qual­ity in Can­ter­bury con­sis­tently breaches na­tional max­i­mum lim­its for ni­tro­gen diox­ide and ozone to the detri­ment of peo­ple’s health.

The Dis­trict Plan ig­nores these facts mak­ing no ref­er­ence to, or un­der­tak­ing any as­sess­ment of, the im­pact of wors­en­ing air qual­ity.

The pros and cons of devel­op­ment do need to be bal­anced. Cur­rently, na­tional and lo­cal plan­ning frame­works favour devel­op­ment with lit­tle re­gard for com­mu­nity views. There are few av­enues of ac­tion open for peo­ple to challenge de­ci­sions where there are le­git­i­mate con­cerns.

Too of­ten com­mu­nity views are side­lined or ig­nored and when con­sulted, in­vari­ably it is at too late a stage – de­spite na­tional plan­ning guid­ance to the con­trary.

Un­like Can­ter­bury City Coun­cil, some far-sighted coun­cils have de­vel­oped ro­bust com­mu­nity en­gage­ment pro­cesses such as plan­ning fo­rums.

Jus­ti­fi­able chal­lenges should not be dis­missed. Last week there was a High Court hear­ing to con­sider an ap­peal by a de­vel­oper to a Plan­ning In­spec­tor’s de­ci­sion to refuse plan­ning per­mis­sion on air qual­ity grounds.

The in­spec­tor high­lighted the ad­verse air qual­ity im­pact re­ly­ing on ev­i­dence pro­vided by lo­cal “ide­al­is­tic” in­di­vid­u­als which chal­lenged the de­vel­oper’s plan­ning ex­perts. Pro­fes­sor Stephen Peck­ham St Au­gustines Road, Can­ter­bury

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