Thank you for contacting me about protections for our historic landscapes.
I appreciate the depth of your concerns about reports of proposals to build a large solar farm on land that inspired The Hobbit.
Like you, I believe that the landscapes that inspired some of country’s most treasured works of literature should be protected for future generations to enjoy. I agree that our planning system should protect important natural landscapes and heritage assets, and I would like to assure you that my ministerial colleagues are committed to ensuring it does just that.
I am not a fan of installing solar panels on land, and I am supporting the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s national campaign to unleash the power of rooftop solar by becoming a Parliamentary Rooftop Solar Champion. Sunny Sussex has huge potential for solar energy and installing solar panels on existing rooftops and car parks could provide 40-50GW in England by 2035.
While literary landscapes are not subject to a separate designation within the planning system, I am aware that they are protected more generally through the National Planning Policy Framework. This sets out planning guidance for local authorities in England and makes clear that local planning authorities’ planning policies should conserve and enhance the natural, built and historic environment, including landscapes. The framework also states that planning policies should recognise the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside.
I understand that Ministers intend to undertake a fuller review of the National Planning Policy Framework later this year to ensure the reformed planning system can effectively mitigate and adapt to climate change and maximise environmental benefits. I would encourage you to share your views when this consultation launches.
More broadly, the Government is introducing changes to the planning system to incentivise more local authorities to adopt and update local plans, which provide a framework for local authorities to set out their vision for their area and a platform for local people to shape their surroundings. Crucially, local plans can protect the important landscapes communities cherish and direct homes to the places local people prefer.
The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill will increase the weight given to local plans when making decisions on applications, so that there must be strong reasons to override the plan. The legislation will also help to foster better environmental outcomes, with a new requirement to prepare Environmental Outcomes Reports to assess the potential environmental effects of relevant plans and major projects.
I believe that, together, these measures will help protect our beautiful countryside and landscapes for decades to come.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Sally-Ann Hart MP.