Labour’s green-belt house-building plot is dangerous folly


The Council for the Protection of Rural England found in 2020 that lockdowns increased our appreciation of green space; 63pc said that protecting and enhancing green spaces should be a higher priority after the pandemic.

In 2022, a Jubilee poll by YouGov on the best things about Britain found that the countryside was the second most popular thing about our country.

And in a more recent polling for the Local Government Chronicle, when asked to choose between building more homes and protecting the green belt, the majority of people (56pc) said they preferred preserving natural landscapes over housing developments.

Finally, a huge 93pc of respondents told campaigners Future Countryside that the British countryside should be regarded as part of our national heritage.

Sir Keir is not attuned to these sentiments and, despite evidence of the decline in the UK’s wildlife and our status as one of the most nature-depleted countries in the latest State of Nature report, he wants to kickstart a “big build”, bulldozing through barriers.

He wants to remove “blockers” who hold a veto. But do individuals actually have a veto? Of course not. The planning system is designed to weigh the benefits of any proposed building cheme against potential harm. No one can simply pronounce that they dislike a proposal and put a stop to it.

There are planning officers for decisions about small proposals, planning committees and planning appeals for the larger housing developments, and examinations by independent planning inspectors for local plans and nationally significant infrastructure projects. Building decisions are about evidence, and about whether a proposal is compliant with policy.

There will always be legitimate barriers to development.

Take water supply – which can hardly be referred to as mere “red tape”, it’s a vital part of infrastructure. Any plans that don’t adequately allow for it should not go ahead. Recently, in Cambridge, the planning department advised against approval for a 1,000-home development on the basis that it had failed to demonstrate it could facilitate adequate water supply.

Likewise, sewage. Earlier this year a large-scale planning application in Yorkshire was refused due to concerns that the sewage system cannot cope.

Surely that shows a system that is doing its job – which is certainly not always the case. At Beaulieu Park, a large development on the outskirts of Chelmsford, a new train station was promised 20 years ago to help encourage sustainable transportation for its residents. It is only just being built now, when, out of necessity, residents are well and truly wedded to their cars – adding to congestion and air pollution.  It is a similar story at Wixams in Bedfordshire. According to BBC reports, not only was a new station promised 20 years ago, but the promised GP surgery, post office and pharmacy have not materialised either.

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