Green and pleasant land...Sir Keir would make it less green and much less pleasant
SIR Keir Starmer was yesterday accused of “declaring war” on the countryside after he announced plans to build on the green belt if he ever gets into power.
The Labour leader claimed he will push down house prices by boosting the supply of homes.
But Conservatives warned the opposition party will cause “grave environmental harm” by allowing building to take place on previously protected areas.
Sir John Hayes said: “It is vitally important that we don’t allow towns and cities to sprawl into the countryside.
“The lyrics to Jerusalem talk of England’s green and pleasant land. Keir Starmer would make it less green and much less pleasant.”
Fellow Tory MP James Daly said: “Keir Starmer and the Labour Party have declared war on the green belt.
“His contempt for those such as Bury folk in my constituency, who want to preserve much-needed and beautiful areas of countryside, is clear for all to see.
“If you want this country to still have green fields then it is clear that Starmer must be kept out of power.”
Former cabinet minister Therese Villiers said Labour had “torn up years of cross-party consensus” and warned: “Allowing development on green belt land will cause grave environmental harm and could see urban sprawl out into our countryside.”
She added: “If people want to save the green belt and save the suburbs, they need to vote against Labour at the next election.”
The green belt is a designated area of countryside protected from most forms of development to help stop urban sprawl and preserve the character of existing settlements.
But Sir Keir said he wants to “back the builders, not the blockers” and he would allow limited cases of green belt development.
He used the example of some houses being constructed on a playing field in Maidstone, Kent, rather than on a car park because it was in the green belt.
Sir Keir said: “I don’t think anybody who cares about our countryside would think that is a good idea. I think protecting the car park and building on the playing field was the wrong choice.
“We would make those tough choices and say to local areas: Not with
standing that it is the green belt, if it is a car park or similar land which doesn’t affect the beauty of our countryside – which we all want to preserve – then we’ll change the planning rules. We’ll give you the planning powers to do that.”
Sir Keir claimed house prices will fall under a Labour government.
He said: “Developers and landowners actually have a vested interest in not building so many houses, because that keeps the price high. “We want to change that model and make sure that many, many more houses are built – and that the price comes down.”
Michael Gove sent Sir Keir a letter pointing out the hypocrisy of his latest policy change.
The Housing Secretary wrote: “I understand that you may have changed your view on housing, as you have on many of your other policies, but I have a number of questions about your housing policies.
“Your Shadow Cabinet colleagues with constituencies in England regularly oppose development, including in their own areas.
“At the last count more than three quarters of them had been blockers not builders. Is this not a case of do as I say but not as I do?
“Your shadow Housing Secretary, Lisa Nandy, opposed building on the green belt in her own constituency. Has she changed her mind and does she agree with your new policy?”
Downing Street said Rishi Sunak wants more houses built while also protecting the countryside. A No10 spokesman said: “The Prime Minister is committed to building new homes.
“But he also wants to ensure we protect the green belt and we encourage people to use brownfield sites.”
Sir Keir set a target of 70 per cent home ownership across the country and said he wanted to see “more than” the Government’s aim of 180,000 new affordable homes over five years.
But he admitted: “We haven’t put a target out there – a target number for affordable homes. But we are absolutely committed to affordable homes.”
Tory Party Chairman Greg Hands said Sir Keir’s latest change of policy shows “he is weak and lacks principle”.
He added: “Almost every member of Keir’s top team has opposed house building and removing protections for the green belt in their own areas.
“Labour’s Developers Charter will prevent residents from objecting to... plans to build in their local areas, concreting over our precious green belt.”