MPs call for more homes in green belt areas

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Changes in the planning laws to allow more building in the green belt will be demanded today in a manifesto on rural areas by a 100-strong group of Labour MPs. They want sweeping reforms to allow a more flexible approach to affordable housing and economic development in the countryside.

Changes in the planning laws to allow more building in the green belt will be demanded today in a manifesto on rural areas by a 100-strong group of Labour MPs. They want sweeping reforms to allow a more flexible approach to affordable housing and economic development in the countryside.

In a report to the Government, the MPs, led by the Labour MP Peter Bradley, say presumption to refuse planning permission on agricultural land should be scrapped.

"Rural housing and rural enterprises are often easily stifled by an approach to planning based on a ritual presumption against development irrespective of its potential benefits to the community," they say.

Allowing building in the green belt will be highly controversial and will be used by the Tories to attack the Government in the run-up to the general election. But the MPs say they have the support of the Council for the Protection of Rural England and the Countryside Alliance for their plans to revive village communities.

They will warn that unless rural planning laws are relaxed, businesses could be forced to leave rural areas when they want to expand, providing jobs instead on business estates in towns. Housing associations should be told to increase the amount they spend on housing in rural areas to at least 15 per cent of their budget to make housing in the countryside more affordable, the MPs say.

They also call for greater protection for areas of outstanding natural beauty and more support for schemes encouraging farmers to protect landscapes, promote biodiversity and public access, with tougher penalties on those who pollute the environment.

The MPs, who represent rural seats, want Tony Blair to appoint a cabinet-ranking minister for rural affairs and to enhance the role of parish and town councils to boost rural communities. Traffic measures include 20mph limits in villages, where necessary, and a national 40mph limit on unclassified country roads. There should be a national network of "quiet lanes" on which walkers, cyclists, and riders have priority over the car, say the MPs.

They want to see multi-purpose schools, village halls, pubs and community centres offering a range of services, including access to computers.

Comments