Rural campaigners warn ministers that meddling with the Green Belt would be foolish.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has reacted strongly to reports that senior ministers want to weaken the planning rules governing major infrastructure projects to allow building in the Green Belt.
Shaun Spiers, chief executive of CPRE, says: “Reports that senior Ministers are contemplating a new Bill to sweep away planning controls are deeply worrying.
“There have been three significant reforms of the planning system since the Coalition took office, and Ministers should give them time to take effect rather than embarking on yet another upheaval.
“As for the idea that Green Belt protection needs to be weakened to boost economic growth, the Government has made clear time and again that it will protect the Green Belt, and any attempt to weaken it will go down very badly with Government MPs. In fact, there is growing evidence of harmful new development being promoted within the Green Belt. The Green Belt needs to be strengthened, not weakened.”
On Monday August 27 CPRE will be publishing a map showing current threats to the Green Belt and asking ministers to reaffirm their commitment to its protection.
Shaun Spiers continued: “The country does need many, many more new homes than we are currently building, but there is no evidence that the planning system is stopping us building them. We are not building enough new homes because individuals cannot get mortgages and public investment in new housing is inadequate.
“It is the job of the planning system to stop inappropriate development. We should remember the words of the former Cabinet Secretary, Gus O’Donnell, who spoke about the need to be clear about the purpose of planning reform: ‘If it is to boost GDP, then the answer is simple: concrete over the South East. But of course that’s not what we want and that’s because you would have to be an idiot to want to maximise GDP. It’s a highly flawed measure and I am pleased that we are at last starting to think more broadly about how as a society we measure success.’”