The six tests: the system campaigners are using to assess new planning bill

6th July 2021

CPRE joins other leading charities including RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts in releasing six tests that new planning rules must pass to put people and nature first.

CPRE at a national level have worked with other major charities to create six measures that we’ll use to scrutinise the government’s upcoming planning bill.

The six tests provide a scorecard that uses the government’s own wording, from its Planning White Paper, to critically assess whether its vision for planning will become a reality in the Planning Bill.

Passing these tests would mean that the plans laid out in the government’s future planning bill make for the nature-friendly, low-carbon, well-designed, affordable homes and places of the future that nature and people deserve.

A wide-ranging coalition

21 organisations have come together from a range of areas to create the six tests. The coalition includes not only charities such as CPRE, the countryside charity and Friends of the Earth but also voices from the worlds of transport – Cycling UK – and nature – the Woodland TrustRSPB and the Bat Conservation Trust.

This powerful coalition, which also includes Greenpeacethe Ramblers and The Wildlife Trusts, understands the power of planning to create thriving, sustainable housing that our communities will feel proud to call home.

As CEO of national CPRE, Crispin Truman, puts it: ‘Planning has enormous potential to reshape society and create healthy, low carbon and thriving communities.’

These tests provide the framework to track government progress towards creating a planning system fit for the future by judging each criteria red, amber or green at key milestones.

Success or failure in six areas

The tests include measures across six key areas:

  • Local democracy. This includes ensuring that future planning rules retain and enhance genuine, accessible community participation and accountability throughout the planning process.
  • Affordable homes. An ongoing challenge, especially in the countryside, the government must deliver an evidenced strategy for building affordable homes and provide local authorities with the power to turn down developments that don’t create affordable housing.
  • The climate emergency. Any plans must see an acceleration of climate action to meet the UK’s net zero targets and make sure that local planning authorities are given powers to deliver climate-friendly developments.
  • Nature: Sites that are important for biodiversity and nature’s recovery must be protected – and new developments must enhance nature.
  • Heritage: Heritage sites and landscapes with special protections must be kept safe and protected from inappropriate development.
  • Health: The importance of human health, wellbeing and equality should be embedded into any new planning system, including prioritising access to natural green space, active travel and reduced air pollution.

The six tests document revisits commitments made by the government and sets out ways to measure success when they release their imminent response to the Planning White Paper.

The contents of this response will give an indication as to whether or not ministers have heeded the much-repeated concerns from this coalition of organisations.

Download 6 Tests for Planning

Now: time to change for the better

As they stand, current plans don’t meet these essential criteria for making the planning system better – especially around ensuring local voices are heard.

As Crispin says, ‘what the government is currently proposing would push planning in the opposite direction. Surely, we should be encouraging more people to take part in the planning process, not alienating whole communities which will undoubtedly be the consequences of the government’s changes to planning?’

Crispin warns that significant changes to the government’s current intentions are needed before the planning rules will really work to meet the country’s needs:

‘Unless ministers change direction, they’ll not only fail many of these key tests but will have failed to reach the ambitions espoused in their own Planning White Paper. Communities, Parliamentarians and campaigners are already ‘seeing red’. That’s why we’re calling on the government to urgently change course and put people and nature at the center of the upcoming Planning Bill.’

Want to help us keep pressing the government to make changes to take the planning rules closer to this vision of a better planning system, not further away? Members help us out by keeping us campaigning and also benefit from discounts at attractions and outdoor shops and our exclusive member’s magazine. Join us now.