IF the proposed changes to planning rules become law then local people will have real difficulty in having any influence over what is built in the communities they care about.

Land is to be placed into one of three categories. Much of the Dales will probably be classified as a 'protected area.' Which sounds fine until you realise that the Hellifield flashes site carried high levels of protection but still ended up being trashed without any meaningful action being taken by the agencies that were supposed to protect it.

Some places will be designated as 'growth areas' where the aim is to build as much housing as quickly as possible. Land on the edge of towns is vulnerable to being put in that category.

The vast majority of land where there are already some buildings will be placed in the third category and designated a 'development area.' This is where there is are particularly strong reasons to be vigilant. It is proposed that there will be no need to apply for planning permission for any development inside a 'development area'. The only restraint on what is built will be what is written in a new Local Plan.

It took almost four years for Craven District Council to write its recently agreed Local Plan and cost well over £1 million of local people’s money. At every stage of its writing it was challenged by professionals employed by major developers who sought to weaken it. Almost every ordinary citizen who tried to get the plan strengthened found it incredibly difficult to understand how to do so and even harder to secure improvements to the plan.

Now it is proposed that this plan that was supposed to last 20 years has to be ripped up and another one written. Once that new plan has been written to rules set by central government then any developer who claims to be following those rules will be able to build without any chance for those impacted by the development to comment.

In other words, the purpose of the new planning laws are to tangle up the ordinary citizen in regulations and prevent their elected representatives from having any meaningful say over what gets developed in their community. A strange way to restore the confidence of the public in local democracy - but an excellent way to reward building developers for contributing so much to the campaign funds of the narrow ruling cabal inside the Conservative Party that is now proposing these changes.

Cllr Andy Brown

Green Party