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- Happold Consulting
Last week the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) supported by Hugh Mallett of Buro Happold met with Richard Benyon MP, Environment Minister (DEFRA) who has special responsibility for land and water. The meeting was arranged to draw the Minister’s attention to some of the concerns in the contaminated land sector (as well as other environmental issues addressed by others).
Hugh outlined EIC's concern that Government appears to be withdrawing its commitment to the delivery of Brownfield Policy. Is was not clear whether DEFRA or DCLG was leading this and there appeared to be no support for the previous specialist support provided by the Environment Agency. Hugh Mallett outlined concerns about the NPPF and its lack of connectivity to technical guidance (PPS23) which was about to be withdrawn and currently provides the clarity of responsibility, necessary for development of Brownfield sites. It was indicated to the Minister that the Contaminated Land sector and the wider industry needs "Clarity, Consistency and Certainty", and if the industry does not get that, then there is a potential that far from a swift and certain planning regime we may end up with “planning by appeal” and all the delay that would accompany such a process.
The Minister said that the NPPF had thrown up a degree of healthy debate between DEFRA and DCLG, and the issues relating to national targets for brownfield development and respecting the desire for localism. The Minister confirmed that he expected the revised Part IIA guidance to be signed off in April. The Minister acknowledged the importance of brownfield land development, but also noted that some brownfield sites have high environmental importance, and that these would be captured in the NPPF. The Minister confirmed that under the NPPF, local authorities will be able to set their own planning targets related to brownfield targets.