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Building on green belt 'will not help'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: August 26, 2012

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Chief Reporter

Building on precious Westcountry land would "irreversibly damage the countryside" while failing to deliver much-needed economic growth, the Government has been warned.

Reports suggest that Chancellor George Osborne's "desperation" to kick-start the economy could lead to protected land being redesignated and given up to new housing.

But critics warned that the move was "ill thought through", would only damage the landscape and would not solve the country's economic woes.

Opposition was led by the former poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

"It is unfortunate if some within the Government feel that undermining the green belt will help deliver economic growth," he said. "There is little evidence to support this, but plenty that it will irreversibly damage the countryside."

Sir Andrew said the green belt, which was designated to prevent towns and cities sprawling into the countryside, had been "hugely popular".

He added: "Now is the time for all those who care for our green belt, and indeed for the countryside as a whole, to stand up for it, including the many MPs who have assured their electorates that the green belt is safe in their hands."

Regional planning strategies, which included house building targets, were scrapped by the Government in favour of giving individual councils more control to meet local needs.

The Government said the Localism Act would "protect communities and the environment from top down pressure to build on the green belt".

Alison Seabeck, Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View, said it was "interesting that the right and left hand of Government were not in agreement".

"We all want to see economic recovery but that does not equate to building all over the green belt," she said yesterday.

"I think there are enormous tensions in Government over this and I can well understand by communities, whether in town or cities or in rural areas, would be worried about a planning free for all.

"When it has happened in the past, we have seen long ribbon developments and large housing estates, which have not been thought through and are not the right houses in the right place."

She added: "I just think George Osborne is desperate to find the means and mechanisms to make his economic policy work. It's ill thought through like so much of Government policy."

Torbay Liberal Democrat MP Adrian Sanders said the policy would not solve problems in the economy or the housing market.

"The issue of house building in not simply building more houses but building the right kind of houses to meet needs," he said.

"We have lots and lots of privately owned homes which are for sale that no-one can afford to buy and yet we have tens of thousand of people on waiting lists for rental accommodation who can't find appropriate properties.

"Those issues cannot be resolved by building more houses in the countryside and we should continue to protect the green belt."

New national planning policies require local authorities to allocate more than five years' worth of building land for new housing.

But the CPRE said it appeared that Government planning inspectors were putting pressure on local authorities to allow building in the green belt to meet the requirements.

The campaign group said it was "vital" the Government focused on "smart growth", prioritising investment and development within existing urban areas.

Tony Hilton, acting chairman of CPRE Cornwall, said urban sprawl would damage the region's most prized asset – its landscape.

"Green belt was created years ago to protect land from ever growing communities," Mr Hilton said.

"If we start building on land surrounding communities, people could drive across the Tamar Bridge and not even know they were in Cornwall.

"Because we are reliant on the tourist trade, it makes protecting the landscape very, very important."

A Treasury spokesman said: "The Government constantly considers a wide range of measures that can contribute to its key priority of delivering sustainable and balanced growth to understand their impact, and will announce initiatives when decisions have been taken."

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  • bettysenior  |  September 02 2012, 8:50PM

    Cameron like Blair is ill-advised by Whitehall on Sustainable Economic Growth and the Way to achieve it The high command of the conservatives has from the start thought that utopia was to be found through bulldozing through planning and building houses wherever a quick buck can be made. But history shows that this thinking by most probably a twenty-something Oxbridge brain, will fail and where this was not the case even in the good times of the 2000s when banks were lending as though there was no tomorrow. Indeed if we look back throughout history again, only in the two decades after WW2 did this country see a continuous sustainable economic growth through the building industry. But this realistically was also combined with the great spur from British industry who had in many ways the upper hand then with most nations including decimated Germany. Today we have no advantage and in fact have the economic might of China and the Far-East to contend with. This perceived government economic blueprint dreamt up by so-called whizz kids will therefore fail. What this nation needs is an economic strategy that creates new technological industries that forty of the world's scientists, engineers and technologists told Blair & co in 1997 after extensive consultation. Unfortunately Cameron it appears is just as deaf and as uninformed as Blair and where government still does not recognise our greatest asset, the British people's creative thinking that according to international studies is the best in the world. Therefore this stupid strategy to relax planning laws et al will get us nowhere except destroy our beautiful countryside and in another decade's time, we shall be deeper in the economic mire than we are today. The big question is, when will Whitehall start to listen to external wisdom such as that given to Blair fifteen years ago but totally ignored instead of leaving it to twenty-something non-performers in the sheer hope that something will happen. A hope that has failed miserably as history again has clearly shown. In the final analysis we need firm economic foundations to build on and where only the creation of new technological industries in the long-term can give us what we clearly seek. Not mere houses that will never provide any meaningful economic dynamism for a sustainable future Britain. Dr David Hill Chief Executive World Innovation Foundation United Kingdom & Switzerland