Well informed council tax payers and voters with robust, wide open, uninhibited access to information is the best safeguard of any constituency. Freedom of information is very useful and necessary for all democracies. It is also your individual right.
Planning ensures that the right development happens in the right place at the right time, benefiting communities and the economy. It plays a critical role in identifying what development is needed and where, what areas need to be protected or enhanced and in assessing whether proposed development is suitable.
Local people should take the lead in shaping their neighbourhoods and elected councillors have a key leadership role in this process.
The role of councillors in district, county or single tier councils will vary depending on whether they sit on the planning committee (which makes decisions on planning applications) or not. However, all councillors have a role to play in representing the views and aspirations of residents in plan-making and when planning applications affecting their ward are being considered.
Changes in the Localism Act 2011 clarified the ability of councillors to be able to discuss matters which may relate to a planning application prior to voting on that application at committee, as long as they can show that they are going to make their judgement on the application with an open mind, listening to all the evidence and not having pre-determined their decision.
Ahead of next month’s spring budget, CPRE is joining forces with rural campaigners, councils and social housing providers to urge the chancellor to deliver fairer funding for the countryside.
The CPRE’s new research report, jointly commissioned with the Rural Services Network, Britain’s Leading Edge and English Rural, shows how rural communities are being left behind when it comes to government funding – facing a triple threat of higher costs, greater need and lower funding than many other areas in the country.
The report argues that inadequate investment in essential public services is deepening rural disadvantage at the worst possible time – as our villages look to recover from the devastating toll of the pandemic.
But the countryside was struggling even before coronavirus took hold, notes CPRE chief executive Crispin Truman: ‘Recent decades demonstrate the impacts of underfunding: little to no reliable rural public transport, poor internet connectivity and a rural housing crisis that is raging through our countryside.’
And yet, there is scope for real positivity about the potential of rural areas, after a crisis that has shown the possibilities of remote working and made millions of us appreciate the health and wellbeing benefits of the countryside. As Crispin argues, ‘with more people than ever before looking to our wonderful countryside as a place to live, raise families and visit, it is crucial the government rebalances [urban and rural investment] without delay.’
Per person, government capital spending is 44% higher in towns and cities than for the rural areas which, combined, are home to more people than Greater London. It’s no wonder that these folk are feeling forgotten, and desperate for a fairer share of the pot.
The Conservative election manifesto proudly stated that ‘Boris Johnson has set out an agenda for levelling up every part of the UK’. But it is clear that ‘levelling up’ should not just address inequalities between regions, but within regions – or cities across England will continue to leave their rural hinterlands behind.
Rural minister Lord Gardiner seemed to recognise this, in his November statement that the government’s ‘vision remains that rural communities should prosper, benefiting from the full range of government policies designed to level up opportunity and take the country forward’.
But rural communities remain poorly served by government’s mechanisms for allocating public funds – known as the ‘green book’ process. For instance, towns and cities benefit from 36% more affordable homes per 100,000 people than rural areas.
A golden opportunity
A more strategic approach must rebalance the way the government funds affordable housing, public transport and essential services. Furthermore, it should recognise that the countryside should be at the heart of a green economy built around sustainable food production, nature restoration, carbon-saving staycations and a new generation of rural home-workers.
Together with our partners, we’re calling on the government to make sure tackling rural disadvantage is a priority within its decision-making – with all growth investment open to public scrutiny at local authority level.
To ensure this happens, we want a cabinet minister to lead a cross-government taskforce with the power to ‘rural proof’ budgets, spending reviews and policies. Only then will the countryside become synonymous with thriving local communities that can play a full role in our national recovery from coronavirus, and our progress towards a carbon zero economy.
‘Levelling up against rampant rural disadvantage and unfair funding allocation is a defining challenge of our time,’ concludes Crispin. ‘The chancellor has a golden opportunity in the upcoming budget to reverse this historic underfunding of our countryside communities. If the government is serious about its levelling up agenda, we must see a significant rise in investment targeted at rural areas to ensure that people can thrive wherever they live: in countryside or city.’
Dorset’s environment is our greatest asset, and a healthy natural environment is fundamental to everyone’s health, wealth and happiness. Our natural environment, our geology and ecology, are also of national and international importance.
We have a responsibility to care for this precious resource and to pass it on to future generations in at least as good a state as we inherited it. For several decades, there has been damage to our environment and habitats, major and measurable reductions in the presence of wildlife in our landscapes, and the loss of some species. Future generations will ask why we allowed this to happen. “Business as usual” is not an option. Tackling the county’s climate and ecological emergency will require actions to be embedded in every aspect of the Council’s plan. It will require investment and future economic growth to be sustainable. A Dorset National Park would bring additional government funding to help tackle these challenges. It would invest in and grow Dorset’s natural capital and work with the Dorset Council and others to develop policies for appropriate, sustainable development (including affordable housing for young families), sustainable transport and energy while better conserving and enhancing our unique environment.
Addressing the climate and ecological emergency
The Dorset Council has declared a linked climate and ecological emergency. The Dorset National Park team supports this. It reflects the briefing we provided to the Council in June 2019. Young people have expressed their view that climate change and biodiversity loss are the greatest challenges facing our planet. Dorset’s environment has been suffering serious decline for decades. Only 39% of our supposed flagship SSSIs are in a “favourable condition”, some 60% of the AONB’s area is only “moderate” or “moderate-weak” and only 10% is “improving”. We cannot continue with “business as usual”. Our environment is our greatest asset and the “ecosystem services” that a healthy environment can provide to Dorset and the nation are vital to health, happiness and prosperity.
The government-appointed Glover Review of Designated Landscapes recognises the exceptional quality and importance of our environment and recommends that Dorset’s strong case for National Park status be considered by Natural England and Government Ministers. The Government, in its election manifesto, has committed to the creation of new National Parks. Dorset is widely recognised as the outstanding National Park candidate. Through a National Park, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to secure a better future. The Dorset Council’s Plan will want to recognise the opportunity a National Park offers to tackle the environmental challenges and achieve sustainable growth.
Addressing the climate and ecological emergency should be embedded in every aspect of the Council’s plan for the county as well as for how it conducts its own affairs. If Dorset is to address convincingly and effectively these challenges, and set out a prospectus for a thriving, greener and more sustainable future, considerations of the environment, nature recovery, climate change and sustainability cannot be compartmentalised but must be “mainstreamed” through the Council’s plan and all of the Council’s policies and plans.
We suggest that the cross-cutting theme of addressing climate change, nature recovery and sustainability should focus on three goals.
Sustainable development – achieve thriving sustainable communities through appropriate policies for the environment, economic development, transport, energy and all aspects of planning. Sustainable development implies housing appropriate to meet local needs, located so that people have the minimum need to travel to work and essential amenities, and new developments which have the appropriate mix of affordable and market homes and work-spaces and are designed and built for sustainable living. A rural economic strategy can optimise sustainability, economic resilience and community advantage by balancing distributed, local development across the county with the proposed LIS approach based on business clusters.
Resilient landscapes and seas – support the development of a resilient and interconnected network of land, water and sea that is rich in plants, wildlife and character to provide a wide range of benefits for local people and visitors. Support farming and fisheries to operate in harmony with the environment, implement policies and practices that offer public benefit and, through planning arrangements, help businesses diversify, add value and improve their profitability in uncertain times.
Connecting people with nature – actively promote the health and wellbeing benefits our environment, wildlife and cultural heritage offer through an inclusive approach for everyone in Dorset. A sustainable environment enables society to live well and prosper.
A Dorset National Park should be a key part of the Council’s vision for a greener, more sustainable future for Dorset’s communities, economy and environment. A National Park would bring additional funding, capacity and expertise to promote and support investment in our natural capital and ecosystem services and help turn around the environmental degradation of past decades. It would work with the Dorset Council and all stakeholders on each of the Council’s proposed five priority themes. It would help develop and implement sustainable policies for planning and development, transport, land use, energy, and the economy including higher value year-round tourism.
A Dorset National Park could also be the first to have an off-shore as well as on-shore role. Key organisations see the benefits of a National Park, working in partnership and with a coordinating role among off-shore stakeholders and across the “green and blue” environment.
With a National Park, Dorset can thrive and become a leader in the green economy. A partnership between the Dorset Council and the National Park can help retain and attract skills, expertise and businesses. Enhancing Dorset’s environment and quality of life can underpin a policy of attracting a diverse range of business investment and talent including in the knowledge and creative economies. The National Park can help farmers and land managers maximise new public benefit farm funding; provide marketing and planning support for land managers and other producers wishing to diversify; attract funding and resources to assist a wide range of voluntary, community and business partners; provide greater opportunities for young people from our schools, colleges and universities; and offer opportunities and benefits for businesses and organisations Dorset-wide.
Dorset needs greater ambition and vision for our future environment and economy. With a National Park, Dorset can realise its potential, for the benefit of our communities, economy and environment, including our young people and future generations. A National Park would be a key partner in helping all of Dorset to address our challenges, including the climate and ecological emergency, and realise the opportunities to achieve a thriving, sustainable future. The Dorset Council’s plan will want to recognise the opportunity a National Park presents for all of Dorset.
The Government is “consulting” (Closing date 15 March) on important changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to incorporate ideas in the “Living with Beauty” report (see below) and on its ideas for design codes.
These proposals follow on from the ‘Planning for the Future’ consultation which attracted criticism from around the country and a mini rebellion in the Commons.
A Civic Voice newsletter has links to all the documents. It emphasise the need for as many people as possible to take EDDC’s consultation on the Local Plan – Options and Approaches seriously and respond to it. Closing date 15 March.
National Planning Policy Framework and National Model Design Code: consultation proposals
In response to the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission report, the Government has announced:
• It will publish a draft national design code setting out clear parameters of good design and a simple process for local communities to define what buildings in their areas should look like • Create an Office for Place within the next year which will pioneer design and beauty within the planning system • Provide £4 million for the community-led housing fund, in addition to extra funding for successful areas under the heritage campaign • Propose changes to the planning framework to place greater emphasis on beauty and placemaking
A number of other changes to the text of the Framework are also set out and explained in this consultation document, but at the time of sending this update, we do not believe that government is proposing a review of the National Planning Policy Framework in its entirety at this stage. A fuller review of the Framework is likely to be required in due course, depending on the implementation of the government’s proposals for wider reform of the planning system.
In addition to the NPPF consultation, the government has published a new National Model Design Code that outlines the design standards new developments are expected to meet. This provides a checklist that will guide local councils to create their own, unique, local design code. This consultation is also seeking views on the draft National Model Design Code, which provides detailed guidance on the production of design codes, guides and policies to promote successful design.
MP for North Dorset, Simon Hoare writes: “We live in an area where the long-term future of farming is vital. Much of our landscape and views have been shaped and formed by man’s intervention on the land to produce our food and meld our environment, Much of today’s North Dorset could still be recognisable to Thomas Hardy’s characters solely because of farming.”
As the days start to lengthen our farmers have turned, or are just to turn, their energies to lambing and the cycle of growth and birth. We begin a new season with hope as the vaccine continues its impressive roll out and the data starts to move in the right direction.
Roy Castle told us we needed dedication. Now I think we all need buckets of hope. Crops springing up, flowers emerging and new life in our fields. I have a very clear memory of the General Election campaign of 2015. I was in my office in Blandford. A lady called and said she had received four leaflets from me all mentioning farming — ‘why?’ I suddenly had a fear that a rogue deliverer had inadvertently delivered in Boumemouth or Poole. I asked her where she lived and her reply was ‘Sturminster Newton’. She said: ‘We’re not a farming area around here’. We had an amicable conversation and whether she voted for me or not, I have no way of telling. I have thousands of conversations and interactions with constituents so why should that one stick in my mind? We of course live in an agricultural area but, her not thinking we did shock me.
I know, as your MP, the huge role our farmers play. We live in an area where the long-term future of farming is vital. Much of our landscape and views have been shaped and formed by man’s intervention on the land to produce our food and meld our environment, much of today’s North Dorset could still be recognisable to Thomas Hardy’s characters solely because of farming. Talk to any farmer and they will describe themselves as custodians or guardians. ‘The land’ is in them DNA. Perhaps it is because it is all around us that we do not see it, just as my caller did not. But we must.
Agriculture contributes more to the UK economy than the automotive sector. It is a significant employer and exporter. Our farming and food production standards are high and will continue to be so. I have championed them in the Commons, occasioning my first rebellion against a Three Line Whip. It is our standards and quality that makes UK produce strongly performing exports. The recently enacted Agriculture Act (the first since 1947) has much to recommend it. Food production continues to be important and we have replaced the rather dead calculation of x acres = y subsidy to what you do with your x acres = y subsidy.
The environmental contribution that farming makes can substantial but it is true that it is a carbon generator. The NFU and many other lobby/pressure groups are making real strides in reducing carbon output. The deployment of Agri-Tec (using technology across all farming) is playing its part in a farmer’s life.
COVID-19 demonstrated fragility in some supply chains. It also demonstrated that while we could survive without a gym visit (not me obviously), a round of golf or a nail bar session (I plead the 5th) we cannot survive without food. Farmers and producers rose to the occasion, as they do day in and day out to keep quality food on our shelves.
So, as we start to glimpse spring let us thank and salute farmers: food producers, environmental custodians, reformers, innovators but more a key, respected and cherished element of our life here in North Dorset.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was first published on 27 March 2012 and updated on 24 July 2018 and 19 February 2019. This sets out the government’s planning policies for England and how these are expected to be applied.
Dorset needs a Local Plan that meets the needs of local people, communities and businesses.
Dorset has to avoid a developer-led free-for-all and so needs a Plan in place by 2024, as the government requires. But that plan should be credible, reflect local need and be based on full consultation with communities, businesses and local people. The plan should offer local homes for local people, including truly affordable homes. And it should respect and protect Dorset’s environment, our greatest economic asset. The future health of everyone as well as our economy depends on this. Please see link below to download the full article on Dorset CPRE’s alternative approach.
Dorset CPRE wants to work constructively to help the Dorset Council develop a sound plan which meets the needs of our communities and helps them to thrive sustainably. We need a Local Plan that is based on full consultation with the people of Dorset on the issues and options that will shape our future. This includes the key issue of housing needand numbers. Central housing targets put at risk our communities and environment. We should all want a Local Plan to reflect genuine local housing needs and for the Dorset Council to be ready to justify a Dorset based approach to the planning inspectorate at public examination. Other councils have successfully made the case for locally appropriate housing numbers below central targets. Dorset needs a Local Plan that is achievable, deliverable and reflects and responds to local need. It is in the interests of the Dorset Council as well as all Dorset’s communities, businesses and residents that a locally relevant and achievable Local Plan is developed.
Two giant oil companies won the largest share of options to build new offshore wind farms awarded by Britain on Monday, investments that are expected to eventually total in the tens of billions of dollars.
Dev Sanyal, BP’s executive vice president for gas and low carbon energy, said in an interview that offshore wind would be the energy sector’s “fastest-growing business over the next 20 years.”
The options were a big move by major petroleum producers into an industry that has for years been dominated by smaller, specialized companies.
The winning bidders, including BP and the French oil company Total, agreed to initially pay a total of 879 million pounds £871 million (about $1.2 billion) in deposits to develop offshore wind farms that will provide sufficient power to light up seven million homes.
The announcement was made by the Crown Estate, the organization that manages the properties on behalf of the queen and the British government. The undersea tracts are part of a large portfolio of properties owned by the British monarchy. Most profits go to the government, with around 25 percent going to pay the sovereign’s expenses.
The high amounts paid for options to build on six offshore plots surprised observers. It appeared to be a sign of both the strength of the British wind market and the eagerness of oil companies to get into the business, said Soeren Lassen, head of offshore wind research at Wood Mackenzie, an energy research firm.
The oil companies are piling into offshore wind because they reckon that investing in massive facilities capable of providing clean power for millions of homes can quickly advance their commitments to reduce the overall carbon emissions of the energy products they produce and sell.
The companies are accustomed to spending $10 billion or more on energy projects, and their eagerness to lock up offshore tracts may also be driving up prices in an industry previously known for frugality.
Key offshore players like Orsted, the Danish company that is the largest offshore wind developer, failed to win any acreage in the auction. In a statement on Monday, the company’s deputy chief executive, Martin Neubert, criticized the prices paid as “unsustainably high.”
The oil giants appear to believe that it is worth spending substantial sums to gain access to favorable sites. Dev Sanyal, BP’s executive vice president for gas and low carbon energy, said in an interview that offshore wind would be the energy sector’s “fastest-growing business over the next 20 years.”
Mr. Sanyal also said building and maintaining turbines at sea fit well with BP’s legacy skills in drilling for oil in the North Sea off Britain and other areas. Although the company is shedding 10,000 jobs as it gradually reduces oil production, it is installing some former oil and gas operators into critical roles in its renewable-energy businesses.
BP estimates that it will pay £1.8 billion over four years for the rights to two tracts in the Irish Sea that it won with a partner, Energie Baden-Württemberg, a German utility. During that time, it will work through permissions and other planning. The turbines are expected to begin generating power after seven years.
Mr. Sanyal called the large upfront payments “relatively small” in the context of the overall capital costs for the projects of “many billions.” Oil companies often shell out princely sums for access to resources before drilling operations begin.
BP paid the highest price per unit of potential power generation for the two tracts that it won. The company argues that these areas, which add up to about 300 square miles of seabed, are likely to have the lowest development costs and, therefore, higher profits because they are in shallow water about 20 miles from the coast of North West England.
Total was the top bidder for a large tract in the southern North Sea in partnership with an arm of Macquarie, a financial firm.
BP and Total are rapidly expanding their offshore portfolios as part of commitments to help mitigate emissions. Last year, BP paid $1.1 billion for a half-share of the offshore business that Equinor, the Norwegian oil company, has established off the east coast of the United States. The companies were recently tapped by New York State to supply power from two large wind farms in the Atlantic.
RWE Renewables, a German utility, won two large swaths of seabed awarded by Britain on Monday.
The companies will pay annual fees while developing their projects and then 2 percent of their revenue, according to the Crown Estate.
Orsted suggested that high prices reflected a lack of sufficient opportunities to meet demand. “Appetite in this leasing round by far exceeded supply, resulting in unsustainably high front-end costs,” Mr. Neubert said in the statement.
RenewableUK, a trade group, also found fault with the auction process, warning it might “mean higher costs for developers and consumers.”
The critics say that, in essence, the Crown Estate did not put enough potential lease areas up for auction and that forced prices higher. But the estate’s chief executive, Dan Labbad, argued that moving too quickly might risk damaging the marine environment.
“There are a lot of uses for the seabed that need to be respected; otherwise, we will be creating new problems for the future,” he said.
Fingerposts are a common feature of the Dorset countryside and their design is thought to be unique. Along with other roadside features like traditional phone boxes and bridge plates, they contribute to local character. Of the approximately 1,285 fingerposts thought to exist in the 1950s, just 717 survive today. Some of the 717 originals have been repaired using non-traditional materials or lettering, and others are in need of some care and attention.
Now the Local Authority no longer has a remit to repair them, we are keen to support local ‘Fingerpost Champions’ to save these fingerposts from extinction and restore them back to their former glory.
With your help and support we can keep these local treasures and retain some of our local distinctiveness.
Become a Dorset Fingerpost Champion
If you are interested in restoring a fingerpost in your local area, the Dorset AONB Fingerpost project can support you. Champions can be small community groups, Parish Councils, individuals, a local business or maybe you a tradesman who can offer workshop space or skilled services.
We now have over 400 signs being restored by communities groups, and individuals.
How we can help
See our Fingerpost Restoration Guide below and practical information which will help you through the process
Get support from CPRE small grant fund, see below.
Fingerpost Restoration Guide
The Dorset AONB now have access to components and services that can help you restore these posts back to their formal glory.
As a start, have a look at our Dorset Fingerpost Restoration Guide (download) to help you understand the processes involved. Once you are ready to start, you may find these additional Dorset contacts helpful:
General advice and support plus archive information Please contact us on email@example.com and we will be very happy to discuss the process, along with providing the information and advice that you will need.
Skilled workmanship, quotes and practical advice As well as complete refurbishment, Roger Bond at Normtec can provide all the materials, practical advice and help need to complete your project. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
New cast Letters and Finials Stephen Coles of Coles Castings who is based just outside Shaftesbury. Email email@example.com
Help with maintenance If cost is an issue then we are delighted to offer the services of the Dorchester and Blandford Mens Sheds and at HMP Guys Marsh and Youth Offenders Institute on Portland. All are producing work to an excellent standard, please email Roger Bond for further information – firstname.lastname@example.org
Taking care of yourselves Whilst we want you to have fun and enjoy your spotting and restoration, we also require you to take care extreme care. Please act responsibly, look out for passing traffic, take care around what can be fragile fingerposts. Take any safety precautions that you feel necessary. e.g warning triangles, a helper to watch for traffic, and should you require a fluorescent visible jacket then please contact the Dorset AONB on 01305 228246.
CPRE small grant scheme
The CPRE offer a small grants scheme for people wanting to restore fingerposts using the correct materials as set out in the Dorset AONB.
Match funding is not required and there is no application form, but the CPRE ask that requests come from a Parish Council representative, (or similar), with a summary of the fingerposts that need repairing, their location(s) and details of who the cheque needs to be made payable to.
The CPRE are covering the whole of the County of Dorset, and are prepared to award between £100-£200 per post.
Time is running out for the government to turn its “aspirational words” on repairing Britain’s natural environment into action, MPs have warned.
In a scathing report released on Wednesday the influential public accounts committee said ministers were running out of excuses for delays on issues like air quality, water, and wildlife loss.
The MPs noted that the government had first promised to improve the natural environment “within a generation” in 2011 and that progress had been “painfully slow” in the ensuing decade.
They warned that a 25-year plan set out by ministers in 2018 did not contain a coherent set of long-term objectives and that the environment department Defra was simply being shrugged off by the rest of the government.
“Improving the natural environment is a huge task and there are structural issues within government that still need to be resolved to improve the chances of success,” the MPs say.
“The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has policy responsibility for most of the plan and relies on other departments to play their part; yet the Department has not shown that it has the clout to lead the rest of government.”
MPs also criticised the Treasury for its “piecemeal approach to funding measures to improve the natural environment” and said Rishi Sunak’s department simply did “not yet understand the total costs required”.
And they sounded the alarm on the government’s new post-Brexit watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection, which they warned might not be “sufficiently independent from government”.
Meg Hillier, chair of the cross party committee, said: “These ‘generations’ will soon be coming of age with no sign of the critical improvements to air and water quality Government has promised them, much less a serious plan to halt environmental destruction.
“Our national environmental response is left to one Department, and months from hosting an international conference on climate change, the government struggles to determine the environmental impact of its own latest spending round. Government must move on from aspirational words and start taking the hard decisions across a wide range of policy areas required to deliver real results – time is running out.”
Prospect, the civil service trade union, said the report showed there had been a “worrying gap between the government’s rhetoric on environmental protection and the reality”.
Its general secretary Garry Graham said the union had been warning that the government’s environmental agencies “lack sufficient funding to do their jobs”.
“The recent announcement that public sector pay will once again be frozen, having never recovered from ten years of pay restraint, could be the final straw for many skilled workers. Decades of institutional knowledge and skills are being lost across the country,” he added.
“With COP26 on the horizon the government must set an example to the world by demonstrating that investing in nature means investing in the people who protect it.”
A Defra spokesperson said: “This Government has made significant progress in protecting the natural environment, improving biodiversity, and combatting climate change.
“We are ambitious in our determination to build back greener from the pandemic through a range of actions – including progressing our 25-year Environment Plan and securing Royal Assent for the
Environment Bill, which will enshrine environmental targets for our air quality, water, and biodiversity in law. We are also investing £640million in the Nature for Climate Fund and establishing an independent Office for Environmental Protection.”