The Peak District National Park Authority has been criticised for seeking an exemption from the government’s proposal to allow offices to be converted into housing.
The authority has come under fire from the CLA in the Midlands, who believe that seeking an exemption to the national policy – which allows offices to be converted to housing without planning permission – will be bad for the economic development in the area.
CLA Midlands regional director Caroline Bedell said: “Farm businesses must be able to grow and adapt to changes in the local economy if they are to provide housing and employment to maintain sustainable rural communities. We cannot preserve the park in aspic. It is private enterprise that creates wealth within the park and barriers to development need to be removed if we are to lead the recovery from recession.
“Housing stock within the park is limited and expensive, and what might not be suitable for offices could well help meet current and future needs.”
However the Peak District National Park Authority’s planning committee decided to apply for an exemption for the whole park as it believes the policy would harm the area’s economy while not helping its shortage of affordable housing.
Planning committee chair Cllr Lesley Roberts explained that the national park only has a limited office space and the authority wants to protect it “for the sake of local jobs for local people”.
“We would be unable to restrict it to affordable housing, which goes against our policy of prioritising low-cost housing for local people. If jobs are driven out and more people are moving in there is a danger of becoming solely a dormitory area for people with jobs outside the national park,” said Lesley.
“In our case it would harm the local economy rather than help it, which is the Government’s stated aim.”
Director of planning John Scott also warned of a further proposal in the pipeline which would have an impact on the national park. This would allow agricultural buildings to be converted without planning permission to other uses such as shops and offices, though not housing.
But the CLA warned that the policy is a “sensible realignment of property use” to meet needs and there is “no reason” why the Peak District cannot benefit from sustainable development. The organisation therefore “questions the motives of the authority in seeking to be excluded, because it in no way reflects the view of our members resident in the Peak District”.