Wither the Green Belt!

The Chilterns would suffer permanent damage if the amount of Green Belt being considered by two councils is released for development, says the Chiltern Society.

In a joint public consultation document, Chiltern and South Bucks District Councils are seeking views on potentially releasing over a 1,000 acres of Green Belt for housing and business development.

However, the Chiltern Society – with 7,000 members the biggest conservation group in the Chilterns area – says there is no justification for releasing such a massive amount of Green Belt.

Chairman David Harris said:”We are horrified by the scale of what is proposed. If allowed, it would cause permanent damage to the character of the Chilterns.

“Last year across the whole of the UK 1,000 hectares of land was removed from the Green Belt. This one proposal alone would release over 400 hectares, nearly half of last year’s nationwide figure. It amounts to a gigantic Green Belt land grab”.

The councils want to make space for over 5,000 dwellings and provide room for around 40 hectares of business development on 15 different sites.

Mr Harris said: “Of course we recognise that local authorities are under enormous pressure to find land for new homes and businesses.

“But we need to be convinced that in preparing their Local Plans the councils are not just taking the easy option of using protected Green Belt. They need to exhaust all other options for development like using former industrial sites or considering a higher density of building in built-up areas. There is no evidence they have done so.

“Green Belt is designated not just because it looks pretty. It plays a vital role in preventing urban sprawl and protecting the countryside for the benefit of everyone.”

He added: “In our Planning Manifesto, which we presented to the Government and MPs, we said the method for calculating housing need in the Chilterns is clumsy and flawed. Housing need in the Chilterns should be made on the basis of local requirements, including those of local businesses.

“It should not be made on the projected potential movements of population into the area from outside. The current system puts an intolerable strain on existing facilities and infrastructure and puts local councils in the Chilterns in an unfair and impossible position. They should not be compelled to meet these so-called ‘objectively assessed housing needs’.”