In Parliament Brandon Lewis doesnt answer the $64,000 Green Belt Question


Yet another debate on housing targets

Stuart Andrew MP

I have some questions for my hon. Friend the Minister. I have heard time and again that building on green- belt land should be allowed only in exceptional circumstances. My constituents want to know what constitutes exceptional circumstances. Is meeting a housing target an exceptional circumstance?

The ministers answer

The green belt is a legitimate constraint on development. It is listed as an environmental constraint within the national planning policy framework. That answers my hon. Friend’s question about whether a housing target is a special circumstance [sic should be exceptional] for developing on the green belt.  The Government attach the highest importance to protecting our green belt. The new guidance that we published in October re-emphasises that importance. We are clear that green belt boundaries should be established in local plans and should be altered only in exceptional [finally gets it right] circumstances, using the local plan process of proper consultation and independent examination. If Leeds city council undertakes a green belt review, it will need to present robust evidence to the planning inspector and not come unstuck at examination for not doing the proper background work

No it doesn’t answer the question and is evasive.  The NPPG answers the question that it can be seen as a blocking constraint.  That is up to LPAs under the Boles doctrine however there are two remaining questions he hasn’t answered.

1. Can an LPA treat meeting OAN as an Exceptional Circumstance – given that DCLG has not intervened in cases such as Reigate we assume as established by long standing precedent that it can

2.  If the LPA cannot demonstrate through evidence that Green Belt land treated as a blocking constraint still meets Green Belt purposes can their plan be rejected as unsound through lack of evidence and lack of a weighing and balancing exercise of reasonable alternatives to show that it is the best possible plan in the circumstances.  To my mind the law on this (2004 Act) remains unchained, of course it can, and no politician can change that without changing the law.It is clear though that Pickles and Lewis want to spread confusion on this point till after the election.

Clearly Brandon Lewis does not understand the difference between may and can.

In recent weeks the Minister has somewhat confused issues around the famous Hunstan/Solihull ‘two step’ test.  The minister is clear that OAN has nothing to do with constraints so that does clear that up.

That [SHMA] should be based on facts and unbiased evidence, and it should be unfettered by policy.

And yes Green Belt is a policy, a policy and a constraint (like AONB).


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