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The views expressed here are our own, although we do not envisage writing anything that will counter the aims and objectives of the High Weald Joint Advisory Committee.

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These blogs have been written by members of the High Weald AONB Unit staff.  You can find out more about these staff by visiting the AONB team page.

A plea for sustainable development criteria to embrace landscape

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Today someone kindly sent me a copy of the government's 'Local Growth: realising every place's potential'. It's worth reading to see where the next battle lines are likely to be drawn in rural areas over development. For protected landscapes the focus on tailoring policy to place is welcome and highlights the importance of understanding those natural, social and cultural characteristics that make a place special but the proposed national presumption in favour of sustainable development which will underpin local plans, new neighbourhood plans and proposals for a simplified national planning framework whilst welcome in principle, could be challenging.

Whoever gets to define 'sustainable development' for these polices will set the direction for all new development and the context for scrutiny and challenge of development decisions. Bear in the mind that the current definition of sustainable development has not delivered for rural areas and has even reduced the sustainability of some settlements. You can read some of the arguments on the Commission for Rural Communities website. Shockingly neither the 45 'Quality of Life Indicators' produced by the Audit Commission in 2005 or the 68 'Indicators of sustainable development' reported on by the UK government in 2010 include reference to landscape, cultural or historic environment qualities or local people's aspirations.

In 2007 the High Weald AONB and English Heritage asked the Countryside and Community Research Institute to develop a new framework for sustainable settlement planning which would allow an area's character and qualities to be considered alongside national criteria in sustainable settlement planning. The framework incorporates 3 kinds of sustainability criteria in one model - 'generic' (national); 'type' (the characteristics of places) and 'local' (community preferences). Adopting this framework in making decisions about sustainable development in spatial planning and individual site planning would give us confidence that the right tools are being put in place to meet the aspiration for policies to be tailored to locality and for local people to have the capacity and opportunity to shape where they live.

Download our report 'An integrated approach to defining sustainable development criteria in spatial planning'.

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