In advance of the publication of the Conservative manifesto tomorrow, Theresa Villiers has welcomed the news that it will contain a commitment to defend the green belt. Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles announced over the weekend that the manifesto will contain a decisive pledge to protect the green belt and prioritise the use of brownfield land for new homes.
Welcoming the announcement, Theresa Villiers said “I am a strong defender of the green belt in Barnet. The green belt is essential to prevent urban sprawl and encroachment, and provides a vital breathing space around towns and cities.”
“Green belt protection rules provide a vital safeguard for the quality of life of Barnet residents. Since 2010, the Government has increased green belt protection in national policy, for example in relation to traveller sites. If we win the election, we will continue to protect the green belt and the rules preventing green belt development will be retained.”
CONSERVATIVE 2015 MANIFESTO EXCERPT
The Conservative Party manifesto for the 2015 general election will say:
“We will… ensure local people have more control over planning and protect the Green Belt.
“We will encourage more neighbourhood planning and protect the Green Belt. Neighbourhood planning gives real power to local people allowing them to play a much stronger role in shaping their areas. It is proving popular and over 1,400 communities, representing around 6 million people, have now applied for a neighbourhood area to be designated and 65 successful neighbourhood referendums have been held. We will encourage more communities to draw up such plans.
“We have safeguarded national Green Belt protection and increased protection of important green spaces. We have abolished the Labour Government’s top-down Regional Strategies which sought to delete the Green Belt in and around 30 towns and cities, and introduced a new Local Green Spaces planning designation which allows councils and neighbourhood plans to give added protection to valuable local green spaces.
“We will… prioritise brownfield development.”
CONSERVATIVE RECORD IN GOVERNMENT
The green belt is 34,000 hectares larger than in 1997 (disregarding existing Green Belt land re-classed as National Park land – which continues to be protected). The amount of green belt development is at its lowest rate since modern records began in 1989 (Hansard, 27 February 2015, PQ 224590). Conservatives in Government have:
- Abolished the Labour Government’s top-down Regional Quangos and Regional Spatial Strategies in England which threatened the green belt in and around 30 towns and cities.
- Published the National Planning Policy Framework which re-affirms green belt protection;
- Issued new waste planning policy which increases protection of the green belt;
- Published planning guidance which re-affirms the importance of the green belt during Local Plan preparation; and
- Increased green belt protection in relation to traveller sites, and consulted on further proposed changes to strengthen policy (but which Liberal Democrats have, for the moment, blocked).