Merrick Denton-Thompson, President of the Landscape Institute said:
“Housing quantity cannot be divorced from housing quality and I fully support the Government’s wish to ensure that new homes are built to a good standard. The white paper today pledges to give communities a stronger voice in the design of new housing and that should be welcomed. Existing residents need to believe that new housing will enhance, not diminish, their quality of life and the value of their homes. Locally led sympathetic place making that positively contributes to the existing village or town, will properly address the whole landscape of the development and reflect the local character.
“People wish to live in safe neighbourhoods that are verdant, distinct and characterful places that provide public community spaces for socialising, play and healthy living. To be able to enjoy the outdoors in their own gardens and neighbourhoods. The Government talks of new funding to boost the capacity and capability of local authorities to help communities’ secure better design in their areas but local authorities need have the necessary skills to ensure good design.
“Green Belt is a controversial issue and I welcome the improved clarity that proposals for amending NPPF Green Belt policies offer, in particular the suggestion that where land is removed from the Green Belt, the impacts should be offset by compensatory improvements to the environmental quality or accessibility of remaining Green Belt land.
“However, I am concerned about the emphasis on re-use of brownfield land for high density housing. This presumption in favour of housing first will inevitably lead to the loss of potential informal amenity spaces, play and recreation areas. Similarly, higher housing densities around commuter hubs must go hand in hand with access to high quality green space. That way, communities can feel the benefits of a multi-functional green infrastructure that is safer, stimulates community cohesion through sociable and play opportunities. It also helps to reduce flood risks, supports healthier living and mitigate climate change.
“More widely, I can wholeheartedly support further protection of our ancient woodlands but the devolution of planning decisions from Natural England to be shared with local authorities on developments affecting Great Crested Newts could be problematic. As a result of staffing cuts, I am not convinced there is sufficient landscape and ecology knowledge within local authorities to ensure they have the necessary skills to meet their responsibilities as a Competent Authority.
“Unfortunately much of the UK has poorly-designed new housing and I believe that a landscape led approach is critical in increasing the supply of the high quality ‘liveable’ housing and the communities we need for the 21st century.”