THE government’s approach to planning will damage the countryside, campaigners have warned.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) came into effect yesterday (March 27) and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has produced a report on how it will effect rural England, calling the findings “deeply disturbing”.

Its report, Countryside Promises: Planning Realities, also claims that the views of local communities are being overruled “time and again” and that major new housing developments – such as the one at Barton Farm - are “being allowed to sprawl across precious countryside”.

CPRE chief executive, Shaun Spiers, said: “CPRE has closely observed how the NPPF is being implemented on the ground and what we have seen is deeply disturbing. Despite the rhetoric of localism, it now seems that local communities are increasingly powerless to prevent damaging development even in the most sensitive locations.”

The government has sought to simplify planning by consolidating more than 24 separate documents into the NPPF, condensing the guidelines down to 65 pages from 1300.

The CPRE is concerned that Winchester planners are not taking into consideration ‘windfall’ sites (brownfield sites that have unexpectedly become available) – meaning that as many as 3,000 dwellings could be built on windfall sites in addition to an estimated 11,000 across the district.