To ask the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on his approach to planning in the countryside in the light of the publication of the revised planning policy guidance note 7.
The Government are not, and never have been, in favour of uncontrolled development. Planning is essential. Our commitment to it was demonstrated through our introduction of the Planning and Compensation Act 1991, and the implementation of the plan-led system it provides for. We have made clear the role of the planning system in ensuring that development and growth are sustainable.Balanced decisions within the planning system require various points of view to be heard and weighed. The views of those who oppose development are often got across very effectively indeed to those taking planning decisions. But weight must also be given to the views of individuals submitting planning applications. For them, especially those in the farming community, success may make all the difference as to whether they can continue to live and work in the countryside. In my speech to the Oxford farming conference, I was speaking on behalf of those individuals—who sometimes feel that their voice counts for relatively little—when I encouraged planning authorities to balance the need to protect the countryside with the need for jobs and houses.This position is clearly set out in the revised planning policy guidance note 7 on the countryside and the rural economy. This note explains this Government's policy of encouraging rural enterprise, while ensuring that the environment is protected. It reminds planning authorities of the need for a balanced approach to rural development and conservation. The planning system helps to integrate development necessary to sustain the rural economy with protection of the countryside for the sake of its beauty, its diversity of landscape, its wealth of natural resources and its ecological, agricultural and recreational value. When paragraph 2.5 of the PPG says that "little weight" should normally be attached to the loss of lower grade agricultural land it means little weight in terms of agricultural value; other factors such as landscape and nature conservation need to be taken fully into account.