Parliament: Environment - Greenfield sites `unprotected'

THE TORIES will launch a fierce attack on the Government's planning policy today, claiming it has failed to protect greenfield sites from development.

John Redwood, the Conservative environment spokesman, will use a Tory- led debate to highlight his party document on "green pledges". The 10 promises focus on urban regeneration, renewing the party's commitment to make the planning process easier and more transparent and give a greater role to local authorities.

Mr Redwood will say: "Labour promised before the election that they would stop our precious green space from becoming easy prey to developers and speculators.

"But they have betrayed Britain by encouraging the development of hundreds of thousands of buildings on greenfield land." The pledges, unveiled yesterday in a document entitled A Common-sense Revolution for Town and Country, include stopping excessive greenfield development, generating more energy from clean and renewable sources, introducing more protection for wildlife; abolishing regional bureaucracy and improving rural transport.

The document says that up to 10,000 homes on green belt between Stevenage and Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire have been developed under Labour and 2,500 were built on green belt near Newcastle upon Tyne although 4,000 lie empty in the city. But Nick Raynsford, the Housing minister, has dismissed suggestions that the Government was planning to build more than one million new homes in the South-east as "complete nonsense".

The row erupted after more than 70 Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs sent a protest letter to John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Regions, about the south-east regional planning guidance proposals last week. But Mr Raynsford made clear that the proposals were still under review.

The Tory document added that Labour had scrapped the Rural Development Commission, transferring its powers to the new Regional Development Agencies although these were urban-dominated. It criticised using "rigid, centrally imposed housing forecasts" to determine the need for development."Greater consideration must be made for the circumstances and wishes of individual towns and counties. We pledge that the existing protection of the Green Belt will not be weakened in any way," it said.

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