By politics.co.uk staff
The presumption in favour of new development should be removed from the government's new planning framework, MPs have said.
A report from the communities and local government committee said the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) as currently drafted gives the impression that economic growth should drive planning decisions rather than being balanced against equally important environmental and social concerns.
MPs called for the removal of the default 'yes' to sustainable development where there is no agreed local plan.
The government noted its "specific constructive suggestion" about an expanded definition of sustainable development.
MPs also called for the reinstatement of policies that say brownfield land and town centres should be developed first and for a new, more inclusive definition of 'sustainable development'.
"As currently worded the framework would introduce several ambiguities that are more likely to slow down the planning process," committee chair Clive Betts said.
"Gaps or contradictions in the document are likely to fuel a system of 'planning decision by appeal' instead of the local decision making that ministers advocate."
The committee also called for a clear and sensible timetable for a transition period to the new system that would give local authorities time to put local plans in place where they have not already done so.
"We are determined that the NPPF will put power into the hands of local people, through a simpler, clearer system, which safeguards our natural and historic environment while allowing the jobs and homes to be created that our country needs," decentralisation minister Greg Clark said.
The NPPF has been strongly supported by developers and faced vociferous opposition from groups such as the National Trust and Campaign to Protect Rural England.
The British Property Federation responded by calling for ministers to "stand up and be counted" on the issue.
While it supported many of the report's findings, it called for a "robust mechanism" to ensure that development can go ahead if there is no local plan. It pointed out that seven years after legislation requiring them to produce one, only 47 per cent of councils have done so.
Fiona Reynolds, director-general of the National Trust, said there was now "irresistible pressure" on ministers to improve their plans.
She added: "Along with nearly 230,000 people who signed our petition against the changes, the select committee has identified the clear changes that need to be made to the draft national planning policy framework so that it delivers a planning system that balances social and environmental needs with those of the economy".