Coalition policy causing 'physical harm' to countryside, claims Tory MP

Nadhim Zahawi says 'massive, irreversible damage' is being caused

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The Independent Online

The Coalition is causing “physical harm” to the countryside by allowing “rapacious developers” to build on farmland and other greenfield sites, according to a Conservative MP and senior adviser to David Cameron.

Nadhim Zahawi, a member of the No 10 policy board, warned “bizarre levels of proposed development” in rural areas could become the “defining legacy of this Government”.

His comments won support from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), which said “massive, irreversible damage” was being caused.

Mr Zahawi, MP for Stratford-upon-Avon, called for major changes to recently introduced guidelines in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to prevent what he described as “intense attacks” on the countryside.

He said that loopholes in the guidelines were undermining the Government’s “good intentions” to enable new houses to be built.

“The damage this is doing to our flagship policy of localism is immense, and, if it continues, the physical harm it is doing to our countryside will become the defining legacy of this Government,” Mr Zahawi said, according to The Daily Telegraph.

He said builders were “identifying farmland, large gardens… and greenfield sites in order to shortcut the planning process”.

“No one in my constituency believes that we can preserve ourselves in aspic forever. However, change needs to be supported by the community, and in the current situation that simply isn’t happening,” he said.

Shaun Spiers, the CPRE’s chief executive, said: “Nadhim Zahawi is entirely right and it is very encouraging that he has chosen to speak out. His concerns are shared by MPs and councillors across the country. The way the NPPF is being interpreted is causing massive, irreversible damage to the countryside and many towns, and the tragedy is that this damage is quite unnecessary.

“The only person who can set this right is David Cameron. Nadhim Zahawi is a member of the No 10 policy board. He has spoken very powerfully about what is really happening in the country, and I very much hope that the Prime Minister will hear him.”

Planning minister Nick Boles said they were not looking to make further changes to planning policy.

“We are not looking to change the NPPF, because after such a dramatic change in the planning system, stability has an enormous value,” he said.