Call for more clar­ity on green belt pol­icy

Gov­ern­ment ‘chang­ing em­pha­sis’ on ad­vice

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS - By Camilla Good­man camilla.good­man@trin­i­tymir­

THE Chiltern So­ci­ety has asked the Gov­ern­ment to clear up the con­fu­sion about whether coun­cils should plan to al­low de­vel­op­ers to build hous­ing es­tates in green belt land.

A num­ber of lo­cal au­thor­i­ties in the Chilterns, in­clud­ing Chiltern Dis­trict Coun­cil, are con­sid­er­ing whether they need to re­draw green belt bound­aries as they pre­pare new Lo­cal Plans which will in­di­cate where fu­ture hous­ing will go.

The so­ci­ety says many feel they have no choice be­cause the Gov­ern­ment is ex­pect­ing them to ac­com­mo­date tens of thou­sands of ex­tra houses but the amount of “un­pro­tected” land sim­ply is not avail­able.

Last month, hous­ing and plan­ning min­is­ter Bran­don Lewis told plan­ning au­thor­i­ties that green belt could be a le­git­i­mate rea­son for set­ting hous­ing tar­gets be­low the “ob­jec­tively as­sessed need.”

And new guid­ance pro­vided for plan­ning au­thor­i­ties in the au­tumn con­ceded that green belt may re­strain the abil­ity of a lo­cal au­thor­ity to meet its hous­ing need.

The so­ci­ety’s chair­man Tom Rod­well said: “The Gov­ern­ment ap­pears to be chang­ing its em­pha­sis re­gard­ing the green belt.

“Coun­cils, en­vi­ron­ment groups and hous­ing de­vel­op­ers need clear, un­equiv­o­cal ad­vice from the Gov­ern­ment about where the green belt stands in its list of pri­or­i­ties.

“The area’s sus­cep­ti­ble to hous­ing pres­sure be­cause its at­trac­tive­ness and close­ness to London, but at the same time it has the Chilterns Area of Out­stand­ing Nat­u­ral Beauty and many ar­eas of green belt which are specif­i­cally there to pro­tect land­scape and stop ur­ban sprawl.”

He added: “The Gov­ern­ment ex­pects coun­cils to meet large hous­ing de­mands while at the same time ex­pect­ing

of them to pre­serve pro­tected land like green belt. It’s of­fer­ing no clear ad­vice at all on how the plan­ning au­thor­i­ties should bal­ance th­ese com­pet­ing pri­or­i­ties and in our ex­pe­ri­ence it is throw­ing plan­ning de­part­ments through­out the area into con­fu­sion.

“There­fore, as an in­de­pen­dent char­ity con­cerned about pre­serv­ing coun­try­side as well as pro­vid­ing places for peo­ple to live, we’re ask­ing Eric Pick­les, as the Sec­re­tary of State re­spon­si­ble for the guid­ance, to clear up the con­fu­sion once and for all. We’re also send­ing copies of our let­ter to each lo­cal au­thor­ity in the Chilterns and ask­ing them to support our re­quest.”

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