Don’t sacrifice Green Belt in rush to build homes

Councils should not sacrifice Green Belt as the pressure to build more homes intensifies, the Chiltern Society has warned.

David Cameron and the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, both called this week for new housing plans to be speeded up to burst the house price bubble. The Future Homes Commission says 300,000 new homes need to be built every year until 2031.

Consequently, many local councils in the Chilterns are planning to review Green Belt boundaries in their attempts to squeeze in extra homes.

In the north Chilterns, Central Bedfordshire Council has produced plans to build thousands of houses and factories on open countryside, including parts of the Green Belt, which the Society says would have a detrimental effect on the Chiltern Hills, the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest. The Society has teamed up with the Bedfordshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) to fight the plans.

In the south Chilterns, Wycombe District Council is planning to review Green Belt boundaries as part of its solution to accommodate an additional 10,000 new homes by 2031.

The Society has told the council: “We are very concerned about the implication …that a Green Belt review would have the express purpose of releasing some of it for development. That should not be the purpose of a review – as set out in National Planning Policy Framework and in in recent ministerial statements, housing need does not override Green Belt protection.

“We accept it is sensible and reasonable to carry out a review of the Green Belt simply to check whether it is still fulfilling the purposes it was created for. We believe the conclusion will be that it still is, and therefore there will be little or any opportunity for development.”

The Chiltern Society has nearly 7,000 members working to protect, enhance and promote the Chilterns as an area of recreation, heritage and unspoilt countryside.

Its chairman, David Harris, said : “Our countryside and open spaces need protecting more than ever as the pressure to build more homes intensifies. Future generations will undoubtedly need to escape to the country and the Chilterns is a significant green lung between London and the Midlands that serves a vital function. It must stay that way.

“We have written to all local authorities and MPs in the Chilterns area reminding them of Planning Minister Nick Boles’ Parliamentary statements that unmet housing does not justify building on the Green Belt.

“Local authorities need to take a very critical look at their future housing needs and be creative and inventive in seeking solutions instead of considering an easy way out by nibbling away bits of protected countryside.”