Call for more clarity on green belt policy
Government ‘changing emphasis’ on advice
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.”