PLANS FOR LAND ‘COULD CHANGE BUCKS FOREVER’
Council says protected green belt could be opened up to development by new planning rules
FEARS are growing over the future of the county’s protected countryside after new government planning rules which could “change Buckinghamshire forever” were confirmed.
In March, it was announced more land across the county could be turned into housing after the government revealed it would enforce new building targets for councils.
Now it is feared more of Bucks’ protected land could be opened up to housing developers after fresh details of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) were announced just before the government broke for summer recess last week.
Addressing the county council on Thursday, leader, Martin Tett, said the government plans to focus on areas where house prices are the highest - which could see Bucks faced with “significantly increased” housing targets.
Green belt land could be released for development if councils struggle to find space – which could have “dramatic implications” for the county, ultimately changing it “forever”, according to the leader.
He said: “I am concerned that the NPPF, as I have read it, purports to maintain [green belt] protection, but does have the get out that councils can release the green belt when exhausted all other options.
“But of course that was never the intention of the green belt.
“If you say ‘I have looked at everything and I have got to release vast areas of green belt’, it sounds as if the government says ‘that’s okay then’.
“I would like to say that’s not what the government intends, but that is certainly the way it could be interpreted from the headlines I have seen.”
The changes pose “significant challenges” for planning departments across the county, and the authorities will now work together to establish exactly what the targets will be and the potential impact on infrastructure.
The government is also planning on forcing councils to earmark more land for development if developers fail to build approved houses – a move which has previously been branded “perverse” by the council chief.
Cllr Tett added: “This could change Buckinghamshire forever in terms of the type of county we are and what we take pride of within this county.
“It has really dramatic implications for us. And the sting in the tail is that councils will be penalised if developers do not build the houses for which they have been given planning permission.”
Could the Bucks landscape be changed by new planning rules?