Research by the House of Common’s library has shown that the Government’s planning reforms put under threat the nation’s green belt. This came on a day when David Cameron appeared to make a number of concessions in Prime Minister’s Questions, which Andrew Lainton has commented upon.
Researchers at the independent House of Commons library have said that the Government’s legal presumption in favour of sustainable development will apply “even within the green belt”. Ministers have insisted that the framework will provide clear protections for the green belt, which makes up 13 per cent of land in England. But a report from the library’s respected researchers has cast doubt on the value of those assurances.
The government’s great planning reform has veered way off course, and needs steering back to sanity. It responds to no national calamity, and there is no public gain to the reform itself. An updating of the system in the local government department was hijacked by a group of “practitioners”, mostly builders and developers, and slid into print. I cannot blame the developers. They cannot believe their luck. They seized a golden opportunity to tip chunks of countryside into their already bloated land banks. It was naive ministers who missed the boat.
If birds and butterflies could speak, they would tell you they have had a lousy year. Government biodiversity targets have done little to help farmland birds such as yellowhammers and corn buntings, whose numbers are steadily plummeting. And if life is hard for birds, it will be harder still for spiders, bugs, snails and hundreds of other creepy-crawlies rarely mentioned in government statistics. And why? The government has cut back on the freedom of groups such as Natural England to have an independent voice.