Air quality is not a matter of ‘idealism’
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