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Green belt bid causes anxiety
HAMPSHIRE countryside campaigners say they are “filled with anxiety” over a new development threat to green spaces.
The Government wants to rewrite planning rules to speed up development in an attempt to boost the flagging economy.
Chancellor George Osborne, pictured, is set to encourage councils to build on green belt land as long as an equivalent space elsewhere is brought into the green belt.
Mr Osborne said it was “absolutely ludicrous” that planning applications took so long to be processed.
But Anthony McEwen, director of the Hampshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “We view these proposals with concern.
“As far as Hampshire is concerned, it can only fill one with anxiety.”
The planned shake-up, which is also believed to include curbs on residents’ rights to oppose development in their area, comes after the Government watered down changes to planning rules that had caused an outcry among campaigners and backbench Tory MPs.
Romsey and Southampton North MP Caroline Nokes , Steve Brine , who represents Winchester , and Meon Valley MP George Hollingbery all signed a recent open letter to the Prime Minister urging him to amend the draft proposals before they were eventually watered down.
Now it seems the Government will return to the thorny issue as part of its Infrastructure Bill, which aims to kickstart developments worth £40 billion.
Mr McEwen said few details were available at this stage.
But he added: “The fact that they are being resurrected so soon after a major overhaul of the planning laws, which has not yet been tested, is bound to cause concern.
“There is an intrinsic value to the Hampshire countryside – it’s not a simple jigsaw that we are dealing with.
“Proposals that are not properly thought through can only cause problems downstream.”
Some MPs and business chiefs say there is an urgent need for more affordable houses to be built in Hampshire, where space is limited but demand is high.
Mr McEwen insisted: “We are absolutely up for affordable housing, but the planning laws are not what is preventing affordable housing at the moment.”
Developers are to blame for not wanting to build on appropriate sites, he said.