The National Trust's ‘Up for Grabs' campaign against sweeping reforms to the English planning system is being strongly backed by community and environmental groups.
The National Trust's petition calls on the coalition government to withdraw and rethink its proposed National Planning Policy Framework, which would introduce a presumption in favour of development on unprotected greenfield sites and allow financial considerations to dominate the planning system.
The latest high-profile figure on board is Brighton Pavilion MP and leader of the Green Party in England and Wales, Caroline Lucas.
Ms Lucas commented: "I share the National Trust's profound concerns about these proposals. Of course there is an urgent need to build more housing, but the main obstacle isn't the planning system, it's the lack of money - thanks in no small part to the Government's decision to cut the affordable housing budget by 60%."
She continued: "These alarming proposals, which include scrapping the policy of building on Brownfield sites before Greenfield sites and the duty to ensure that new developments minimise road traffic, would give the green light to countless inappropriate schemes in cherished landscapes."
The MP declared: "Brighton and Hove and Sussex more generally are already under considerable pressure from development and many of my constituents rightly fear the impact of these reforms on the places they know and love. It is no exaggeration to describe the National Planning Policy Framework as a developer's charter."
Geri Silverstone, External Affairs Consultant at the National Trust, responded: "We are delighted that Caroline Lucas has pledged her support for our campaign. We are encouraging everybody, including other politicians, to have their say on this important issue before it is too late."
Caroline Lucas' backing comes at a critical moment in the National Trust's campaign with just over a week to go before the end of a public consultation on the new policy.
The move reflects mounting national and local concern about the impact of the planning reforms which were announced in July this year.
The National Trust campaign is urging the coalition government to strike a better balance between economic, social and environmental considerations in the planning system; to abandon its principle of a default ‘yes' to planning applications; to retain the ‘brownfield first' approach to development, and to ensure local plans are created by democratically elected and accountable representatives not businesses.
* To sign the National Trust's petition before the end of the public consultation on 17 October 2011, visit: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/planning
* The National Planning Policy Framework, and an opportunity to respond to it through the consultation can be found here (.*PDF Adobe Acrobat document): http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/planningandbuilding/pdf/1951811.pdf