Page last updated at 14:49 GMT, Tuesday, 27 March 2012 15:49 UK

Minister: Planning changes 'sorely needed'

Planning Minister Greg Clark has told MPs that the planning system in England "sorely needed" reform and that the government's changes would protect the countryside.

Making a statement to MPs on the national planning policy framework on 27 March 2012, Mr Clark said that "a decade of...top-down targets" had left "communities seeing planning as something done to them, rather than by them".

Mr Clark argued that the government had to enable more homes to be built and that failure to act would tell young families that "the property-owning democracy was for our generation, not for theirs".

The government is publishing a revised national planning policy framework, following a row with conservation groups over last year's draft plans.

Critics argued that a "presumption in favour of sustainable development" amounted to a "developer's charter".

Responding for Labour, Hilary Benn accused the government of making a "mess" of the planning system.

"Ministers claim that planning is the obstacle to building homes when 300,000 dwellings, already given permission, have not yet been built...because of the failure of the government's own economic policy," Mr Benn said.

The shadow communities secretary referred to criticism that ministers have been vague about what amounts to "sustainable development".

Backbench Conservative MP Anna Soubry warned that "people throughout this country love and value our greenbelt land" and asked if the proposals would strengthen or weaken protection.

Mr Clark responded that threats to the greenbelt often came from "regional bodies" that the government is abolishing.

The draft version of the new guidelines reduced a 1,300-page document to 52 pages - the final booklet is just 50.

The reworked framework will require councils' policies to encourage brownfield sites - those already built on in the past - to be brought back into use.

The first version had been criticised for not doing so - but the presumption in favour of sustainable development remains in the plans.

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