Following the recent government announcements on planning Adrian Tod takes a look at how they may effect future housing development.

The government’s new planning proposals have had a rough ride over the past few months - and rightly so. Early drafts were not promising and they threatened disjointed, short sighted and self-serving policies that may have put decisions in the hands of disjointed organisations, short sighted people and self-serving business concerns.

But all is not yet crystal clear. The phrase ‘sustainable development’ seems to have caused confusion in many, including some of the politicians and planners themselves. If it means we will now build homes that people will be proud of in fifty years then that sounds like good sustainability. But if it means homes of which we will be so ashamed we will tear them down in several decades – as we have with so many from the 1960s - then that, patently, is unsustainable development.

The final draft however has been met with guarded and grudging approval – even from bodies such as the National Trust and Friends of the Earth.

The policy of Brownfield first must be right. To make use of urban regeneration while protecting our countryside wherever and whenever possible still provides enormous opportunities for much needed house building.

Where rural development is considered let us hope that planners are mindful of their duty to our heritage. It is our children who will have to live with their decisions, as we have had to live with many poor decisions made by their predecessors. Bringing new life into rural communities is important and modern technologies like broadband can attract people who will live and work in a community and not just sleep in it.

The government wants to concentrate more on reviving our flagging town centres and less on out of town retail parks. They could be too late for that. The public may have moved on a step or two further than government thinking - as is sometimes the case. So an enlightened vision on how we could bring mixed use to struggling town centres, including residential development, may be a way to move forward.

But whatever the future brings at least we now have a planning policy that, broadly speaking, people can get behind and which will enable planners to get planning and builders to get building. All we need now are the mortgages to help buy what is built. But the government didn’t mention anything about that . . .