Tag Archives: green belt

Crispin Blunt MP tightens Greenbelt on Government

Crispin Blunt and some London based colleagues have taken up the cudgels in the green belt debate. Mr Blunt, MP for Reigate, formed the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for London’s green belt with the intention of pressuring the Government to do more to protect green belt, build on brownfield land and increase the speed that developers are building out.

In a letter from Mr Blunt to Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, the group claim the new housing need assessment put forward by Government in September imposes “excessive housing targets” in areas where local authorities will have little choice but to build on green belt or AONB land.

The secretariat for the APPG will be provided by the London Green Belt Council, a group chaired by Richard Knox-Johnston, who is also the vice-chairman of CPRE Kent. CPRE and the London Green Belt Council have always worked intimately with each other, and jointly published a paper last year calling for a moratorium on development in the green belt.

Given the new group will have close involvement from the CPRE, it’s perhaps no surprise they have already echoed CPRE’s calls on Government to prioritise development on brownfield land rather than release more land for homes in expensive areas of the country to ease the housing crisis.

The group has also called for councils to be given the power to reject development proposals which do not meet local affordable housing requirements, even if they don’t have a Local Plan or an establish five year housing supply. However, given the National Planning Policy Framework’s presumption in favour of sustainable development, and the number of rulings which have been determined on this basis in recent years, it’s unlikely Government will budge on this when the NPPF is updated.

Announcing the launch of the APPG, Crispin Blunt said:

“I am delighted we have formed the APPG for London’s Green Belt. With the number of Green Belt sites around London under threat from development more than doubling over the past year, we urgently need to review our approach to housing policy across the region. The group will inform the debate and develop recommendations for Green Belt-friendly planning policy.”

The group consists of:

  • Crispin Blunt MP, Co-Chair, (Conservative, Reigate)
  • Lord Rogers of Riverside CH, Co-Chair, (Labour)
  • Gareth Thomas MP, Vice Chair, (Labour and Co-op, Harrow)
  • Adam Holloway MP, (Conservative, Gravesham)
  • Rt Hon Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Conservative, Chesham and Amersham)
  • Baroness Jones of Moulsecomb (Green)

The group is well versed in green belt issues and brings considerable influence to bear within Westminster, with Lord Rogers of Riverside CH having served as Chief Advisor on Architecture and Urbanism to Boris Johnston and Ken Livingston and Gareth Thomas MP the current President of the London green belt Council.

Given Crispin Blunt MPs assertion that failures in the planning system have  placed “unreasonable pressures on local authorities to provide new homes whilst developers have ‘land banked’ sites”, we can expect the APPG to steer Government to include measures on speeding up  build-out on sites which have already received planning permission, in upcoming planning changes.

No group meetings have been arranged yet, but keeping watching this space.

Slough Council

Slough in green belt land grab

Slough Council has announced an audacious bid to meet its housing numbers by proposing a new settlement of 10,000 homes in South Bucks District Council. Needless to say, South Bucks has opposed the plan.

Like a number of other urban unitary authorities with tightly drawn boundaries (think Stevenage, Luton etc) Slough has struggled to meet its housing need within its own borders. This was not a particular problem when Regional Spatial Strategies existed but since their removal these urban authorities have struggled.

In this case Slough has felt forced to publish a “high level spatial plan” showing a 10,000 home “garden suburb” in South Bucks, an authority which has struggled to find space to meet its own need and which will undoubtedly fiercely resist this new incursion.

The added complication in this particular case is that South Bucks has been preparing its Local Plan in conjunction with neighbouring Chiltern District Council, so there the knock-on effects of Slough’s land grab will ripple outwards. As it is a significant proportion of South Bucks and Chiltern’s combined housing need is currently being taken by Aylesbury.

However, in a further twist, if the proposed new method of housing need assessment currently out for consultation is used in its current form South Bucks/Chiltern would see their housing requirement soar by 35% (1,400 homes). With Aylesbury’s own target being increased under the new system by several hundred new homes a year from its current target of almost 1,000 it seems it unlikely Aylesbury will be willing or able to cater for unmet need from South Bucks or anywhere else.

This is a complicated mess and one that will be difficult to resolve – and we may see something similar play out in other areas of the country. The Duty to Co-operate is just that – it is not, as one inspector notes “a duty to agree”. Labour, under Miliband, suggested these authorities would have a right to expand. With no such commitment from this government the arbiter is likely to be an unfortunate planning inspector.

Back to regional spatial strategies anyone?