Housebuilding is being prioritised over our environment in Whitehall’s moves to simplify planning regulations, grassroots campaigners have been told.
The recently launched Gasworks Communities United group – an umbrella for community groups campaigning around pollution and environmental issues – heard from experts and campaigners at its first online conference at the start of December.
Sustainable development professor Jon Fairburn, from Staffordshire University, has carried out work for the World Health Organization on air pollution and social inequalities in Europe, and presented some of his findings.
Fairburn was asked whether proposals to streamline and modernise the planning process set out in the Planning for the Future consultation could have an impact on this issue. He said: “Almost certainly because it appears that the government is trying to throw everything and just get on with building regardless of the impact on the local environment, that that is the worry at the moment.
“And there's negligible consideration going on about how you properly support active transport, for example, and how you have a good environment.
“So it's difficult to see how it's going to be a positive for the environment at the moment, to be honest.”
Fairburn’s work for WHO found that disadvantaged groups were most affected by, and face multiple exposure to, environmental pollution, which is contributing to death and health inequalities across Europe.
CIEH has previously raised concerns around some of the proposals in Planning for the Future (the consultation closed in October). It has expressed concerns that it will mean shutting out community engagement, and wants to see the health of future occupiers given higher priority.