There has been widespread speculation about changes to legislation concerning the Green Belt. Parliamentary lobbyists are putting increasing pressure on the Government to soften regulations controlling building on the Green Belt. Lobbyists are claiming the Green Belt is preventing developers building the houses our country needs. During the run up to the General Election 2015 the Government gave a manifesto commitment to protect the Green Belt and when entering office Secretary of State Sajid Javid MP said the Green Belt is ‘sacrosanct’. Lobbyists justify their point of view with Green Belt statistics and claims that parts of Green Belts across England are not worth saving.
Annually Central Bedfordshire Council provide the Department of Communities and Local Government with statistics about changes to their Green Belt. According to these statistics published between March 2009 and March 2016 ( found here Green Belt Statistics Table 2 2009 and here Green Belt Statistics Table 2 2016 ) the area of the Central Bedfordshire Green Belt remains unchanged at 28 200 Hectares. This statistic to use a current idiom is an ‘alternative fact’. An analysis of approved planning applications for developments in South and East Central Bedfordshire shows 677 Hectares of Green Belt has been lost:
|Houghton Regis North Planning Applications|
|Leighton Buzzard East Planning Applications|
The Council’s Draft Local Plan when published is likely to propose more development on its Green Belt together with unprecedented levels of development within and around its rural towns and villages. If the scale housing developments are similar to those proposed in the Council’s failed Development Strategy then at least a further 615 Hectares of Green Belt will be lost.
As the Council is politically aligned with Government the Council’s choice to build on the Green Belt is clearly at odds with Government’s manifesto commitment and its national planning policy. The Council therefore is very likely to lose the votes of people ‘Escaping to the Country’ who thought living in the Green Belt meant they would be free from unnecessary large scale development impacting their rural way of life. Clearly the Council’s ‘alternative fact’ is means of avoiding criticism of its choice to build on the Green Belt and preventing a substantial number of votes from being lost.