The Theatres Trust has issued a rallying cry to the sector as culture and the arts are overlooked in a draft National Planning Policy.
The Theatres Trust is stepping up its campaign to persuade the Government to give a higher profile to culture in its proposed National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Arts professionals are being urged to respond to the Department for Communities and Local Government’s (CLG) Call for Evidence on the matter, and take part in the Government consultation on the NPPF to draw attention to the omission of any reference to culture, the arts and theatres in the draft document: the Theatres Trust has commissioned a paper to inform those who would like to have their say.
The paper points out that the NPPF does not cover culture, the arts or theatres and argues that the NPPF should be offering more clarity to planners if the planning system is to reflect the Government’s claims to support culture and the arts. Whilst the contributions made to community wellbeing by sport, leisure, recreation and open spaces, the natural environment, and design all get a mention in the document, there is no such reference to the contribution of culture, the arts, theatres, galleries, museums or libraries.
The consequences of culture being sidelined in planning policy could be severe, not only for future developments, but for existing cultural facilities. The new draft policy has removed references in current Planning Policy to the role of theatres in encouraging a night time economy in town centres, and explicitly encourages building and land usage for retail, offices, leisure and recreation, and sport, whilst ignoring the arts and culture. If the new Policy is adopted in its current form, the Theatres Trust is concerned that local authorities will have no guidance on including cultural policies in local plans. They explain: “Cultural facilities such as theatres, libraries and museums rarely generate a commercial return, however they occupy valuable sites. If the importance of these facilities is not identified by local authorities and their plans are ‘silent’ on culture, they could become subject to development pressures and be demolished or converted into restaurants, shops, or housing.” The Theatres Trust is also arguing that “The prominence and clarity given to sport and the historic environment in the draft NPPF and the failure to explicitly mention and define culture means that in relation to the DCMS sectors the definition of sustainable development used in the framework is unbalanced.”
The CLG Select Committee’s Call for Evidence on the NPPF will close on 9 September: the Government’s consultation on 17 October.