Posted by: dorsetcpre | February 11, 2017

Housing White Paper: Listening to the Countryside at last?

On Tuesday 7th February, the Government published its long-awaited Housing White Paper. At times we have feared that this would herald a new assault on the countryside and yet another round of developer-driven planning changes. That is certainly what some very well-funded and well-connected organisations and businesses have been pressing for.

Dorset CPRE is hugely heartened that the Paper promises continued protection of the Green Belt, support for more brownfield development, and to address the failures of the housing market as opposed to further meddling with the planning system – all fundamental issues CPRE has relentlessly banged the campaign drum on. There are also proposals to discourage developers from dragging their heels once they have the land and permissions needed to build.

CPRE campaigned strongly for these promises to be a core part of the White Paper, and they are a testament to what CPRE can achieve for the countryside with sound evidence and powerful, patient campaigning. CPRE is now working to influence the consultation on how to calculate the need for new housing.

Housing targets in Dorset
While of course Dorset CPRE, as well as local residents, accepts that there is a need for more housing, especially affordable housing, it does not accept the unduly high number, 73,000 houses currently required by central government to be built in Dorset. It believes that such a number amounts to at least 150,000 new residents and 100,000 more cars by 2033, further squeezing our inadequate infrastructure.

Also, the increasing pressure on our Dorset infrastructure services such as education and the NHS, which already suffers from staff shortage, does not seem to have been taken into account. These staff shortages are largely caused by the high cost of property, now unaffordable for nurses and ancillary workers, arising from a lack of truly affordable housing available.

If we are to protect the countryside and prevent urban sprawl, it is essential that housing targets are local, honest, realistic and deliverable. The outcome of this consultation represents the acid test of whether the Government is able to protect the countryside while meeting its aspiration for more house building.

Supporting local communities
Given these pressures, CPRE is supporting local communities across Dorset in fighting these unsustainable demands by central government for unacceptable housing numbers. The coming months are going to be incredibly busy for us – marshalling evidence, constructing persuasive arguments, and getting our message to the widest possible audience. There is a three month window for CPRE to respond to the White Paper and the consultation on the new housing targets methodology itself.

The full effects of the White Paper will take some time to unfold. Notably, the details of many measures in the paper are interwoven with an expected update to the National Planning Policy Framework later this year and the promise of a new standardised way of calculating Objectively Assessed Housing Need. Both present hazards for the countryside.

If your community or Parish Council is under pressure from developers to destroy your local environment, the atmosphere of your Market Town, AONB or Green Belt, please contact Dorset CPRE who will give as much assistance as possible through the local CPRE groups to ensure that the Urbanisation of Dorset does not go unchallenged.

An urgent request from Richard Nicholls, Chair of Trustees, Dorset CPRE

Dorset CPRE have submitted an objection to the latest Mapperton Farm Solar Park planning application 3/13/0681/FUL.

Some of you may have been surprised to receive a letter recently from East Dorset District Council regarding your 2015 letter/email opposing the Mapperton Solar Park, and asking if you would like to make any new comments in the light of their decision to hold another planning hearing despite losing two Judicial Reviews on this development. We would like to suggest you do make a new comment as there have been important developments since 2015. Even if you didn’t object and comment last time, please do so this time as all responses are helpful in influencing the outcome. The deadline for writing  has been extended to 7th January 2017 (confirmed 20th December).

We wrote to our members in 2013 and 2015 and asked for their support to defeat Good Energy’s proposal for the Mapperton Farm solar park, on land owned by South Dorset MP Richard Drax. This year Katharine Butler on behalf of the Mapperton Preservation Group won another successful Judicial Review. The judge agreed that East Dorset’s Planning Committee was significantly misled by the Officers’ Report which recommended permission be granted. The Report admitted that the proposal would do harm to heritage assets but failed to point out that, if this was the case, this would not comply with policies in the Local Plan and that the Officers should have recommended refusal.

Despite this, the proposal has been resubmitted and, if built, would be at 24.2MW, the second largest in Dorset. It is in unspoilt countryside, just south of Blandford. The size remains the same at 106 acres, equivalent to 67 soccer pitches. Last time the response was over 700 objections, a record for a solar installation in Dorset. Dorset CPRE is in favour of renewable energy – provided it is not unacceptably damaging to the landscape, to heritage assets or to the amenity of local people. However we believe that this application is hugely damaging.

Your further objection is essential – without it we will not succeed in stopping this harmful proposal.

Reasons for Objection

The scheme has met with strong opposition from the local community over concerns for its size, landscape, visual impact, social amenity, and use of “best and most versatile” agricultural land.

View from Grade II* Listed Charborough Park towards proposed Mapperton Solar Farm

View from Grade II* Listed Charborough Park towards proposed Mapperton Solar Farm

We think it will be hard for East Dorset District Council now to say that the installation does no harm to heritage assets, while changes to the Local Plan take years to make. We are looking to strengthen the evidence that harm will be caused to the setting of the Conservation Area of Mapperton and Spetisbury Rings, as well as the views from and into Grade II* listed Charborough Park and Tower, and their setting.

There are two more important changes since 2015:

1) Significant progress has been made towards Dorset’s Renewable Energy Targets for 2020, thanks to the approval of 46 solar farms. CPRE estimates that East Dorset has now reached 100% of its target as of this September, with the County as a whole now at 130%, taking into account installations that are either operational, under or awaiting construction. Even Greater Dorset, including Bournemouth and Poole, has reached 98%.

2) In the UK overall it is projected that by 2020 maximum National Grid capacity for Solar installed capacity of 12GW will have been reached without approving more solar parks, and there is serious risk of overwhelming it.

There is thus little need for this awful blot on the precious landscape of East Dorset either locally or nationally.


  1. Concern regarding harm to local heritage assets.
  2. Little need for this park given the recent progress towards Dorset’s Renewable Energy Targets for 2020.

PLEASE SEND extra comments of OBJECTION to the Planning Application, in support of the local residents and our landscape – either by email or by post.

EMAIL: You can email  Please quote the application number, and provide name and address including a postcode. Write your comments and confirm your Objection.

ROYAL MAIL: The letter can be handwritten or typed.  All you need do is PRINT your name and address at the top of your letter – don’t forget the postcodequote the application number, write your comments including confirmation of your OBJECTION to the development, and DATE and SIGN AT THE BOTTOM. Post it to: Development Management, EDDC, Civic Offices, Bridge St, Christchurch BH23 1AZ

If you still have the East Dorset letter, write PTO on the front, turn it over and write in your comments, nor forgetting to say you are objecting to the development, then sign, date and return it to the address on letter.

The deadline for writing  has been extended to 4th January 2017.

Thank you in advance for supporting again this campaign.

Shaun Spiers, CPRE chief executive, opened a debate on the ‘Urbanisation of Dorset’ at the Dorset CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England) AGM held on 19th November in a packed hall at Cerne Abbas.


Shaun Spiers, CPRE Chief Executive, opened a debate on the ‘Urbanisation of Dorset’ at the Dorset CPRE AGM held on 19th November 2016 at Cerne Abbas Village Hall.

He talked about the Government’s forthcoming White Paper on housing and saw it as a golden opportunity to tackle England’s complex housing crisis. CPRE welcomes predicted measures to promote brownfield development, rein in land banking and incentivise quicker building once planning permission has been granted. We should also do more to encourage well-designed, higher density development in towns and cities with good public transport. Both these measures will result in precious countryside, including the Green Belt, being better protected.


Shaun Spiers said:

“There is a growing consensus both on the need for much more housing and on how to deliver it. The Government has a chance to get the whole nation behind a housebuilding programme that is based on sound planning principles, with a focus on affordability, brownfield land and sustainable housing densities.”

“There have been positive statements by Ministers on the need to open up the housing market rather than relying on a few big house builders; on the need to get big developers building, rather than land banking; and on the need to fund planning departments adequately.”

“So far, so good. But if the Housing White Paper is to have any credibility with countryside campaigners, it must address the main failing of the current system – undeliverable housing targets which lead to acrimonious planning conflicts without increasing the overall number of homes built.”

“Villages and small towns across England are being besieged by multiple planning applications that pay no heed to sustainability or real need. All the evidence is that if you work with communities, they will get behind necessary development, but if you seek to impose it on them, they will fight it.”

“We need realistic and deliverable housing targets that meet local need across the country. And then we need to get on with building the homes the country needs.”

In Dorset we now face a deluge of new housing in both rural and urban areas. The government is demanding that by 2033 Dorset must build 73,000 houses. This will in effect mean that the population of Dorset will rise by at least 150,000, putting enormous pressure on local infrastructure. However, we see no plans as to how we are to cope with such a rise in population, especially in terms of infrastructure and local services.

Peter Bowyer from the PPAC (Pan Purbeck Action Campaign) spoke about the results of the Consultation following the Partial Review of its Local Plan by Purbeck District Council (PDC) and views expressed by residents over the proposal to increase the number of new homes in Purbeck by 5600 by the year 2033 rather than the earlier proposed 2520 homes. The Partial Review had been forced on Purbeck because of challenges by government inspectors to the housing numbers included in the Plan. The lack of genuine affordable housing in Purbeck, where local wages are low but house prices are high in part due to second home ownership, which is a major source of complaint and PDC will explore imposing charges on the latter.

CPRE research found that Strategic Housing Market Assessments produced by local authorities are inaccurate, inflated and unreliable. The ‘Set up to fail: why housing targets based on flawed numbers threaten our countryside’ report shows that erratic ‘need’ figures are not being balanced with sensible planning for infrastructure, consideration of environmental constraints, and realistic assessments of what housebuilders will be able to deliver. In November 2015 CPRE analysed the 54 local plans adopted in the past two years that have included a new housing target. The research shows that environmental constraints are not being taken into account when determining housing targets – even though ministers insist they should be. Just seven of the 54 plans (13%) contain housing targets that are in part determined by environmental factors.

Phil Bisatt, Chair, RTPI (Royal Town Planning Institute) South West also spoke as did Sandra Brown, who is involved in the Dorset & East Devon National Park proposal. She focused on the good record in the Parks of supporting affordable homes.

Dorset CPRE is involved with most of the local action groups opposing the housing plans and will be active itself in challenging the policies which lead to inappropriate central government housing targets and proposing ways to reduce them. CPRE strongly supports the need for more Affordable Housing for the next Generation. We need everyone’s support to help protect the Dorset countryside from inappropriate development, and ensure that much-needed new homes are built in the right places.

New farmers and new small farms can kick-start agricultural revolution

Brexit vote offers chance for farming to become more diverse and environmentally resilient, say countryside campaigners

A new report released on 18th August by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) argues that farming in England needs to become more diverse to prove environmentally resilient and publicly accessible over the coming years [1].

The New model farming paper argues that a more diverse sector – in demographics, farm size and production – would forge a more resilient future that offers rewards beyond food: beautiful landscapes, clean water, abundant wildlife, better flood management and improved carbon storage. It also argues that a post-Brexit settlement along these lines would make clearer the public benefits of huge public investment in farming.


CPRE Farming Foresight report – New farmers and new small farms can kick-start agricultural revolution

The paper suggests that Government should attempt to reverse narrow trends of industrialisation and short-term efficiency that have long inflicted damage on vital natural assets – from landscapes and wildlife to soils and water. Damage to soil is estimated to cost £1.2 billion a year, while populations of farmland birds in England have more than halved in the past 40 years [2].

To arrest this decline in diversity across the sector, CPRE argues that Government should address the bias in policy towards larger farms through the tapering of public funding to benefit smaller farmers. It is currently thought that around 80% of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payment goes to the 20% largest businesses [3].

With 34,000 fewer farms in the UK than there were a decade ago, CPRE also suggests that more land should be made available to new groups of farmers and communities [4].

uk farms2

Graeme Willis, food and farming campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said:

“The Government has a great opportunity post-Brexit to determine what farming and the English countryside will look like. Do we really want to continue the pattern of ever larger agri-business, less connected to communities and out of kilter with nature?

“To forge a more resilient future, the Government should encourage a mix of farms that produce different foods for local people and varied, thriving landscapes. The obvious place to start is by redirecting funding to help smaller, more innovative and mixed farms, and by making land available for new farmers to enter the market.”

New model farming is the first in a series of ‘Food and Farming Foresight’ papers from CPREwritten to encourage debate about the future of farming. The paper also suggests Government could:

  • encourage more dynamism and diversity in farming through a community right to bid, and a transparent register of landholdings;
  • encourage the use of low cost technologies and techniques to benefit all farmers;
  • and ensure that a much higher proportion of public funds are directly linked to delivering public benefits [5].


Notes to editors

There are case studies of good farming practice in the report.

[1] New model farming: resilience through diversity is the first in a series of ‘Food and Farming Foresight’ papers from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

[2] Defra, Cost of soil degradation in England and Wales, 2011, Cranfield University report for Defra, p. 29; CPRE, New model farming, 2016, p. 8, fig. 2.

[3] Figure cited in T. Lang and M. Heasman, Food Wars, 2015, p. 270.

[4] There is declining diversity of farms in the sector. While there are direct public payments to support farm incomes, such finance has not been enough to save thousands of smaller farms. County council-owned farms have dropped in number, as have mixed farms.

In the 1980s, county council-owned farms covered 340,000 acres, but 100,000 acres have since been sold and the number of tenancies has halved. Peter Hetherington reports that the county farm estate still covers some 200,000 acres over 50 council areas with 2,000 tenants. CPRE, New model farming, p. 12.

Just over 10% of all farm businesses are mixed, but numbers are falling. Defra’s Farm Business Surveys from 2000/1 to 2014/15 show that mixed farm business numbers (not holdings) went from 8,499 businesses in 2000 to 6,260 in 2014.

[5] Most public funding via the CAP – around 80-85% (or some £2.3 billion in 2014) – goes directly to farmers and is paid by the hectare for the land they manage. Fifteen to 20% (or £502 million in 2014) pays for agri-environment schemes, where farmers are paid under contract to protect water bodies, safeguard soils, help wildlife thrive and maintain beautiful, healthy landscapes. Defra, Agriculture in the UK 2015, 2016, p. 63.

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