Coun­cil says pro­tected green belt could be opened up to de­vel­op­ment by new plan­ning rules

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - by JAS­MINE RAPSON Lo­cal Democ­racy Re­porter

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?

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