Planning system should recognise – and compensate – efforts of those fighting for our countryside

Our farmland is too precious to succumb to a general free-for-all

David Knight, CPRE Essex chairman, calls for donations by land agents to charities when they win planning permission for development proposals. Perhaps such a scheme would make them think twice before making speculative applications…

Since becoming chairman of CPRE Essex, one of the things that never fails to impress me is the dedication and professionalism that our members and other individuals bring to opposing the many and growing speculative planning applications – and all free of charge!
Essex is constantly bombarded by applications to build on some of the best arable land in England by landowners, who sometimes employ land agents to gain outline planning permission.
The application goes into the local authority for approval, which then asks for comments from people who may be affected by the proposal. This starts a process of research, gaining evidence, letter-writing, petitions etc etc, mainly by the people who could be adversely affected, sometimes with the help of organisations such as CPRE.
The submissions are sent in and the local planning office makes a decision. However, if the decision is to reject the proposal, the land agents, free of charge, often try again, with some extra reason the development should be allowed.
More research, letter-writing etc
In addition, if it is a big development, often at the start of the process the land agents hire expensive lawyers to put forward learned reasoning as to why the proposal is sound.
Now, while this may seem a fair process, and is certainly much fairer than the one suggested in the government’s White Paper Planning for the Future (outlined and critiqued elsewhere on this website) I cannot help thinking that it is about time that if the planning department – after this exhaustive process has been finalised – rejects the application, then the people who have worked so hard  to achieve an outcome should be compensated in some way.
Now I am not suggesting that individuals should get rich! However, I cannot help thinking that a donation by the land agents to a recognised charitable organisation would not go amiss.
In addition, maybe it should be part of the cost incurred by speculative individuals when they seek planning permission. It would certainly make them think before submitting applications and it would reduce the burden on our overworked local planning departments and volunteers.