CLG defends green belt stance
The Communities Secretary vowed ‘green belt remains very safe’ as he fielded several questions on the subject from MPs in the House of Commons yesterday.
Eric Pickles pledged not to alter the definition or designation of green belt at the Local Government and Communities oral questions session.
The subject dominated the debate in which MPs voiced concerns about comments the chancellor George Osborne made on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show earlier this month. Mr Osbourne suggested local councils should ‘landswap’, allowing building on green belt if another equivalent plot of land were protected in their area.
Mr Pickles said yesterday: ‘The green belt is an important protection against urban sprawl, providing a green lung around towns and cities.’
MP for Southampton Test Alan Whitehead asked him if he would ‘clear up the confusion about what is and is not green-belt land by firmly repudiating what the chancellor said on 2 September’.
Mr Pickles answered: ‘What I have said is absolutely compatible with what the chancellor said; there is no difference between my views and those of my right honourable friend.
‘We have said from the dispatch box that a proportion of the green belt is former brownfield land—a disused quarry, for example, or a scrap yard—and the national planning policy framework envisaged careful consideration of those boundaries.
‘Does it not make sense to get those kinds of sites back under development, and protect and enhance the green belt?’
Right-leaning think tank Policy Exchange released a report last week saying more land should be allocated for housing developments.
Last month the CLG was forced to deny it was going to alter the new national planning policy framework to allow widespread development on green belt land.
At the same questions session yesterday, new planning minister Nick Boles – founder of the Policy Exchange – ducked the question of whether he thought the chancellor was a ‘nimby’.
When Mr Boles said the government wanted to ‘protect beautiful countryside’ across the country MP for Sefton Central, Bill Esterson, suggested he needed to ‘stand up to’ Mr Osborne.
Mr Esterson asked: ‘[The chancellor] has said that he is opposed to the development of 1,500 homes in the so-called Wilmslow Vision in his constituency, while being quite content for large-scale development of the green belt to take place in the rest of the country. Does the minister think that the chancellor is a nimby?’
‘I hope you will forgive me, Mr Speaker, if I duck that last question,’ Mr Boles answered. Although, he did explain certain sites currently designated green belt land are in fact brownfield land. ‘Not all the green belt is beautiful green fields,’ he said.
Should more green belt land be freed up for house building?