Councils are being “hustled” into allowing badly thought-out development on greenfield land by central Government, the director of the National Trust has warned.
Pressure to increase the amount of housing developments are forcing “ill-prepared” councils to redesignate countryside sites instead of building on brownfield areas, Dame Helen Ghosh has said.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend, Dame Helen said that the Nation Trust is “very concerned” about the potential planning permissions that will blight green areas and that the organisation was “making representations” to the Government on the issue.
She said: “We are very concerned that the haste with which local authorities – some of them ill-prepared to do so – the haste with which they’ve been hustled into producing their local plans and the pressure they’re under to produce the numbers of houses has forced them, in some cases, to designate greenfield sites, and we are very worried about that and we are monitoring it and making appropriate representations to Government about it.
“There were some positive signs recently in recently-issued guidance from the Department for Communities and Local Government that the incentives to develop on brownfield sites would be strengthened, and some of the arguments that developers make – that it’s just too difficult to develop on brownfield sites and you have to do so much investment before you begin – were ones that local authorities should not listen to.
Hostility towards the Government’s attitude to the countryside in its planning reforms is growing, with much of the frustrations focused on Nick Boles, the planning minister.
Frustration has reached such levels that many traditional Conservatives are considering a switch to Ukip which is now fighting the planning reforms.
Last month Sir Simon Jenkins, the Chairman of the National Trust, warned that protections for the green belt around towns and cities to control sprawl, which were welcomed by the Prime Minister when the reforms were laid out, are proving to be virtually worthless.
He said: “We shouldn’t have to fight for the green belt in 2014. At the present moment 150,000 applications are in for the green belt. This should be absolutely inconceivable.”
“The green belt is no longer sacrosanct – that is the fact. A sensible planning regime would consider how you would best protect greenfield land around the cities.”