Land Use Studies Town and country planning - Geography Essay Example

The government has four primary objectives for rural areas:

i - Land Use Studies Town and country planning introduction. To raise the quality of life and the environment in rural areas.

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ii. To promote more sustainable patterns of development.

iii. To promote the development of the English regions by improving their economic performance so that all are able to reach their full potential.

iv. To promote sustainable, diverse and adaptable agriculture sectors.

(ODPM, Planning Policy Statement 7, 2004)

QUESTION

a. Explain what these four objectives mean.

b. What are the problems associated with rural areas, and will meeting these four objectives begin to address them?

Q a i) To raise the quality of life and the environment in rural areas.

By developing guidelines and policies within the planning system to promote sustainable development patterns and sustainable communities in rural areas, the Government aims to achieve:

* Community building

In order for rural communities to sustain and enhance their identity and sustainability, planning policies dictated in Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) and Local Development Documents (LDD) should include those which ensure that the quality of housing in rural areas is good, the quality of the rural environment is maintained or improved and that the intrinsic value of the countryside is enhanced.

* Economic stability, growth and diversification

By encouraging economic growth and diversification in rural areas through the planning system, the Government wants to ensure that the quality of life in rural areas is not only improved but is also sustainable, with community involvement in economic activities essential for the long term survival of rural communities.

* Maintaining local identities

If the local identity of a community is maintained, this helps enhance the intrinsic qualities of the local countryside and, in turn, also helps communities recognise the importance of conserving their local identity. The importance of maintaining the local identities of rural communities is also recognised by the Government because the local distinctiveness of rural environments contributes enormously to the value of the countryside as a whole.

*

Providing better community services and facilities

It is specifically mentioned in Planning Policy Statement 7 (PPS7) that the rural population should have reasonable access to a variety of services and facilities and that local planning authorities should, through their LLDs, “facilitate and plan for accessible new services and facilities…”. This is of particular importance to those rural areas where there is a need for new or improved services or facilities, and especially those areas that are growing or developing.

By raising the quality of life and the environment in rural areas, the Government aims to protect and enhance the value of rural areas and to create sustainable and thriving communities in rural areas.

Q a ii) To promote more sustainable patterns of development.

Sustainable development is an essential part of the planning system, if not the most important objective in terms of land use.

In PPS7 the Government makes it clear that sustainable development should be achieved by:

* ensuring that most development is focused in or around existing rural towns and villages, thus preventing excessive or uncontrolled urban growth;

* ensuring that, where possible, local planning authorities should encourage the use of previously developed (brownfield) sites and discourage the use of previously undeveloped (greenfield) sites

(The Government also recommends that, should the development of greenfield land be unavoidable, the local planning authority should ensure that it is used to its full potential and not wastefully.)

* promoting mixed use of land to fully utilise the land and countryside surrounding urban areas. This would also have the effect of diversifying land use and thus economic, social and recreational activities in rural areas

* providing for the development of recreational facilities and leisure opportunities to ensure that the countryside is enjoyed by both rural and urban communities

The Government also includes recommendations for the protection of the local distinctiveness of rural areas, and states that consideration must be given to the design of a potential development to ensure that it is in keeping with its location as well as being sensitive to the character of the countryside. This is of particular benefit to those areas which have historical or architectural value.

The re-use of existing buildings in the countryside also features in PPS7 and the local planning authorities have been asked to set out in their LDDs the criteria for allowing the conversion of existing buildings for commercial, residential, recreational or mixed uses. These criteria have to take into account the following:

* “The potential impact on the countryside and landscapes and wildlife;

* Specific local economic and social needs and opportunities;

* Settlement patterns and accessibility to service centres, markets and housing;

* The suitability of different types of buildings, and of different scales, for re-use;

* The need to preserve, or the desirability of preserving, buildings of historic or architectural importance or interest, or which otherwise contribute to local character.” (ODPM, PPS7, 2004)

Q a iii) To promote the development of the English regions by improving their economic performance so that all are able to reach their full potential.

The Government wishes to accomplish the above by using the planning system to encourage the development of competitive, diverse, sustainable and successful rural economic activities in order to provide employment, protect the economic value of rural land and encourage economic growth and stability within rural communities.

PPS 7 also states that the planning authorities should support the diversification and growth of economic developments, where local planning authorities should:

“(i) identify in LDDs suitable sites for future economic development, particularly in those rural areas where there is a need for employment creation and economic regeneration;

(ii) set out in LDDs their criteria for permitting economic development in different locations, including the future expansion of business premises, to facilitate healthy and diverse economic activity in rural areas.” (ODPM, PPS7, 2004)

Q a iv) To promote sustainable, diverse and adaptable agricultural sectors.

The Government recognises the role agriculture plays in the rural economy and way of life and is continually developing strategies to increase the diversification and sustainability of agricultural practices. The Government also recognises that the industry needs to become more competitive and in order to do so encourages the diversification of agricultural activities, especially those that involve new agricultural opportunities, such as renewable energy crops. This also serves to broaden farming operations in order for farmers to add value to their primary produce. The Government has also recommended that planning authorities include policies in RSS and LDDs that encourage farmers to become more environmentally friendly, adapt to new and changing markets, both locally and nationally, and to comply with changes in legislation governing their industry.

PPS7 mentions forestry operations, however these operations fall mainly under the Government’s forestry policy, the England Forestry Strategy (1999) and has two main aims:

i) “the sustainable management of existing woods and forests: and

ii) a continued and steady expansion of woodland area to provide more benefits for society and the environment” (ODPM, PPS7, 2004)

Regional and local planning bodies should take these aims into account when preparing RSS and LDDs and deciding planning applications.

Q b) What are the problems associated with rural areas, and will meeting these four objectives begin to address them?

A fundamental problem, in terms of the planning and development system, is that the system was originally designed to tackle urban problems and land use issues, rather than the management and development of the rural countryside. Land management of rural areas has largely been left up to those who have an interest in it, such as farmers. The planning system has limited control over agriculture and forestry and thus a large proportion of rural land, even today.

The Government has tried to address the historical inadequacies of the system; however, many basic problems are still prevalent in rural areas, most notably:

i) Limited access to public transport in rural areas means that an increase in economic activity in areas that do not have access to public transport will result in an increase in road traffic. This would impact on the local environment and infrastructure.

ii) A severe shortage of local service providers, such as shops, post offices, doctors and schools means that some rural communities have a lower quality of life and thus the population have less incentive to remain in the area. The economic difficulties faced by service providers trading in small or scattered communities are also evident.

iii) Comparatively low paid jobs and a significant percentage of unskilled labour in rural areas results in limited economic opportunities and job creation for local communities.

iv) The conflicting views of environmentalist groups, developers and local communities are difficult to satisfy.

v) The constant pressure to accommodate an increase in rural population and the shortage and, in some areas, a complete lack of affordable housing and available land means that the needs of the local population are not met.

PPS7 provides avenues for solutions to the problems noted above; however, as with the majority of land use issues, the policy statement has its limitations.

In order to encourage economic growth and diversification of economic activities in rural areas, the control of the development of non-land management related commercial activities was reviewed. Local planning authorities are encouraged to promote the use of suitable buildings and development sites for services and facilities that would benefit the whole community. The authorities are also encouraged to support mixed use applications that maintain the vitality of the community and the provision of smaller local facilities, such as childcare facilities, especially those within or near existing settlements where access does not rely on the use of private motor vehicles.

The recommendations contained in Kate Barker’s report, published in December 2006, also states controversially that local authorities should reconsider green belt boundaries in order to free up more land for development purposes. There is a fear that once limited development of former Green Belt land is permitted there is a danger that the process will not stop, resulting in excessive urban sprawl. The recommendations in PPS7 also encourage the diversification of farms by requiring local planning authorities to be supportive of sound farm diversification schemes, including those which fall in Green Belts “where the development preserves the openness of the Green Belt and does not conflict with the purposes of including the land within it.” (ODPM, PPS7, 2004)

Environmental and rural protection groups, such as Friends of the Earth and the Campaign to Protect Rural England have raised concerns over the viability of what they see as the relaxation of control over development of greenfield sites and green belt land, and the impact that non-land management related commercial developments and activities would have on rural areas. Although they also acknowledge the importance of encouraging economic sustainability and diversification of economic activities, they see this as something which has taken priority over the conservation of the rural countryside and environment. These groups also highlight the need for more specific guidance on how local planning authorities should integrate the diverse objectives that PPS7 mentions, when decisions are made.

It is extremely difficult, if not impossible for the Government to take into account all arguments and satisfy the needs of conservationists, developers and local communities because of the conflicting views and interests of they have. It is important to remember that planning strategies are designed to be flexible in order for local planning authorities to consider each proposed development on its merits. The Barker report also recommends that the planning authorities change their approach to planning applications to a more positive approach by:

“Promoting a positive planning culture within the plan-led system so that when the plan is indeterminate, applications should be approved unless there is good reason to believe that the environmental, social and economic costs will exceed the respective benefits” (The Barker Review on Land Use Planning, 2006)

Conserving the natural beauty and local characteristics of the countryside is also very important, not only in terms of economic value, but also because these qualities contribute enormously to the identity of rural areas, locally and nationally. One obvious benefit of ensuring that these qualities are preserved is that tourism and visitors contribute enormously to the rural economy. The Government recommends that local planning authorities actively support the creation and further development of tourist and visitor facilities in and around existing towns and villages. The Government has also recommended that local planning authorities allow the conversion of suitable existing buildings for the provision of visitor and tourist accommodation within the guidelines provided.

The Government’s strategy in addressing the problems facing rural areas is, at the moment, based mainly on improving the economic situation in rural locations. It is expected that the economic regeneration of rural areas will begin to address some of the problems facing rural areas. Planning authorities also have a duty to consider the interests of local communities, as well as giving consideration to regional and national interests and the associated environmental and economic impact that the proposed development would have.

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