KCAN (Kirklees Community Action Network – with whom WARD works very closely), commenting on the supposed revolt by Tory MPs over the threat to green belt, sent me the following from the Chairman, Robert Bamforth, yesterday:
“Subject: Sunday Times — Tory Revolt over threat to Green Belt
There is a very interesting article on page 2 of today’s Sunday Times – it basically says that about 50 MPs, mostly Conservative, have launched an all-party group on Green Belt Protection. This is in response to their concerns that “local authorities are misinterpreting and abusing new planning powers to earmark vast tracts of lush countryside for house building”. I am sure it is also a response to their concerns about losing their seats at the next election!
A few MPs’ names are mentioned and it names Julian Sturdy the MP for York Outer as one of the founding members. At this point in time I don’t know how many West Yorkshire MPs have signed up to the group but it would be useful to know.
It’s an excellent step in the right direction, but not before time and I do hope they don’t restrict themselves to protection of the currently designated Green Belt. Other Green Spaces, such as Provisional Open Land, Urban Green Space and the vast rural area that is not designated as Green Belt can be just as valuable. The fact is that Green Belt designated land forms only a small proportion of the urban and rural green space in this country. I think you will find this interactive “Telegraph” map, which shows the extent of the Green Belt, quite interesting.
The issue is not simply about protecting the Green Belt. It is about insisting that Councils listen to local people and do not pursue inflated and unrealistic development aspirations; that they focus on urban regeneration and re-use of Brownfield land, before they release green fields for building.”
Needless to say the WARD organisation endorses all the above comments – particularly the reference to unrealistic housing targets as illustrated by the Leeds LDF figures which are based on nothing more than aspiration. If indeed this is correct, and we are seeing the formation of a truly proactive, all party lobbying group at Westminster then that is very welcome and certainly, as Robert says, “An excellent step in the right direction”. WARD would, however, hope the new all party group will not simply confine itself to sound bites and photo opportunities in the local press as a means of safeguarding marginal seats in 2015. WARD sincerely hopes that this group will lobby incessantly in Parliament for real change to current unsatisfactory planning legislation. Urgent reform to the NPPF is desperately required as this document is nothing short of a developers’ charter!!!