Wide divisions over what to do with Britain's byzantine planning system have become even less likely to be bridged any time soon. No sooner has the government proposed legislation to make it easier for new developments to be built than a leading environmentalist calls for the whole of England to be given national park status - a move that would restrict future building projects even further since national parks have tougher than normal planning controls. In his inaugural speech to members of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), the lobby group's new president, American travel writer Bill Bryson, said: 'Something I have often wondered is why we don't make the whole of England a national park. In what way, after all, are the Yorkshire Dales superior to the Durham Dales? Why is the New Forest worthy of exalted status but glorious Dorset unworthy?' His position is at odds with government attempts to encourage more house building, which include directing local authorities to provide more land for developers. Prime Minister Gordon Brown wants a series of eco-towns and villages built across the country and a White Paper on planning reform recommends speeding up the planning process and taking a project's economic benefits into account when granting approvals. The government wants more homes built to ease the pressure on rents and sales prices which are rising to levels many people cannot afford. But the CPRE says the government's proposed legislation could put the planning system back 60 years, because safeguards against over-development contained in the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act would be lost. 'If it hadn't been for our planning system, towns and cities would have sprawled across the countryside in the same way they do in the United States,' said Marina Pacheco, head of planning at the CPRE. 'While Los Angeles is 100 miles at its widest, London is a mere 25 miles - thanks largely to green belt planning controls,' she said. The CPRE is urging the government to focus home building on brownfield sites in cities. An alternative vision is given by the Town and Country Planning Association, which advocates the building of 'linked new settlements', mini new towns with good public transport links to neighbouring larger towns and cities. 'We must allow communities to develop their own local solutions, identifying new settlements where they offer the most sustainable option,' association chief executive Gideon Amos said. 'Bringing regeneration and urban extensions together through 'linked new settlements' is crucial as part of a portfolio of possible solutions. The term should now enter the planning lexicon.' Given these wide divisions, the debate on the future of Britain's planning system looks set to run and run.