CPRE Sussex Director’s column written for West Sussex Gazette, Oct 2023
It seems all too often discussions of important issues become polarised slanging matches. At a time when debate turns to argument CPRE Sussex aim to find the nuance.
Take, for example, housing. It is portrayed in much of the media, and by many politicians of all persuasions, as a simple choice. You are either a builder or a blocker.
People are reduced to stereotypes. Younger ‘generation rent’ who are locked out of home ownership and forced to put up with insecure tenancies and sky-high rents, versus NIMBY older boomers who want to block development at every turn.
Looked at this way, every planning rule is a barrier to be torn down, every environmental protection a block on the aspirations of future generations.
This reduction to young versus old or environment versus economy is unhelpful.
We need more housing. But simply letting private developers build more and more homes of whatever type and tenure they wish will not help tackle high housing costs.
Ripping up pollution controls on developers will simply mean bigger margins for housebuilders and a worse environment for everyone.
Instead, we need reforms to our planning system which focus development onto brownfield sites, prioritise genuinely affordable social housing and set targets based on up-to-date data on housing need.
Non-planning policies can also help enhance environmental protections and tackle housing issues.
Genuine ‘levelling up’ of our economy, more secure rights for tenants and capturing the gains in land value that come from development for public benefit, not developers’ pockets, are all vital.
By looking beyond stereotypes we can meet housing needs and protect the environment.
CPRE Sussex takes a similarly nuanced approach to renewable energy.
Climate breakdown is the single biggest threat to the countryside and our way of life. We need to get off fossil fuels at extreme speed and reduce our energy consumption.
But in the vital rush towards renewables, we cannot throw everything else that matters under the bus. We must protect wildlife and preserve land for nature-friendly farming.
That is why we back solar in the right places, for example on rooftops of new builds, car parks and industrial buildings as shown in our Rooftop Solar campaign which launched earlier this year.
That is why we back the principle of wind farms in the right places.
For example, we back in principle the expansion of the Rampion offshore windfarm but we have concerns about the way the onshore cable route is being handled. We are seeking assurances that wildlife, landscape and local communities are being cared for.
If you share our views, that nuance is needed in polarised times and we should all be able to have security, prosperity and environmental protection at the same time, please consider supporting our annual appeal.
By doing so you will help us protect and promote our Sussex countryside now and in the future. Find out more here: avivacommunityfund.co.uk/p/protect-our-precious-sussex-countryside