Well its good that after two weeks the Telegraph gets an angle to publish this story.
Sir Andrew was speaking as he was formally unveiled as the next president of the Campaign of Protect Rural England.
In his first public comments since accepting the role, the former poet laureate made clear his concerns about Government reforms to planning rules.
Ministers want to replace over 1,200 pages of planning guidance with a new 52 page document called the National Planning Policy Framework, which campaigners say will make it easier to build on parts of rural England.
The CPRE is worried that the draft NPPF includes a new “presumption in favour of sustainable development”, and puts communities at risk of large scale development. The Daily Telegraph is also urging ministers to rethink the reforms.
Earlier this month, the CPRE warned that an area in England which equates to an area almost three-and-a-half times the size of Wales was at risk from the reforms.
In his first comments as president-elect, Sir Andrew said: “When Government planning reform could place two thirds of rural England at the mercy of a presumption in favour of development, this is a critical moment for the countryside and for anyone who wants a say over what happens to their community and their surroundings.”
Shaun Spiers, the CPRE’s chief executive, added: “The countryside he is talking about is the local countryside on people’s doorstep which is most threatened by the National Planning Policy Framework.”
Sir Andrew will formally be proposed as the CPRE’s new president in June 2012, succeeding the author Bill Bryson who finishes his five-year term this summer.
Sir Andrew was Poet Laureate from 1999 until 2009 and is Professor of Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London.
He spoke at a CPRE event on Wednesday night of his passion for the English countryside, the inspiration he draws from its beauty and tranquillity, and how the countryside is a national asset that should be accessible to everyone.
He said: “To be proposed for this role is a mixture of joy, honour and a little trepidation. But if CPRE members will have me, then I am fully prepared to stand up for the countryside alongside them.”
The Government is widely expected to announce its response to the changes to planning rules next month, ahead of their introduction in April.
A spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said: “The government is maintaining strong protections to safeguard the countryside.
“Planning reforms will put local communities in the driving seat by giving new powers to neighbourhoods to write their own plans. Top-down regional targets will not trump local concerns and aspirations of local residents when local plans are made.
“The draft framework makes clear that inappropriate development that is harmful to the Green Belt should not be approved. In addition, our reforms to abolish the unpopular Regional Strategies stop the top-down pressure to remove the Green Belt in thirty areas across England.”
Chancellor George Osborne has insisted that the changes to planning rules are necessary to boost growth and jobs. However a study published this month suggested that they were unlikely to affect employment or growth the economy in the short term.
The report, commissioned by the CPRE, the National Trust and the RSPB, suggested that economic claims about the benefits of the changes have been overstated.
It concluded that “there is no evidence that planning has large, economy-wide effects on productivity or employment”. It added that the draft NPPF “is unlikely therefore to have much effect on growth”.
Mr Osborne has justified pushing through the changes by saying that planning delays cost Britain £3 billion every year.
But MPs were told in November that the forecast was based on figures nearly two decades old, although the Government stands by the estimate.