Residents in Mayford campaigned against the loss of green belt land earlier this year
Countryside campaigners in Surrey have criticised proposed changes to national planning policy, claiming it would “further weaken the green belt’s vital defences”.
The Department for Communities and Local Government last week launched an eight-week consultation on proposals to amend the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)
Local authorities are currently constrained by rules dictated in the NPPF when considering planning applications.
The NPPF, in particular, outlines protection for building in the green belt, which is permitted only where “special circumstances” can be proven.
One such amendment proposed is to allow neighbourhood plans to allocate small-scale sites in the green belt, specifically for starter homes.
“This will support local areas in giving affordable home ownership opportunities to young people and young families by enabling a small level of development sympathetic to local concerns and is clearly supported by local people,” read consultation papers.
“National planning policy currently considers limited affordable housing for local community needs as ‘not inappropriate’ in the green belt, where this is consistent with policies in [a] local plan.
“This does not give express support to neighbourhood plans, which seek to allocate land in the green belt to meet housing need, where this is supported by the local community.”
‘Nibble, nibble, nibble’
The proposal has been criticised by the Surrey branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), which says it is a weakening of the planning rules.
Andy Smith, CPRE Surrey branch director, said: “The government appears to have given in to developers’ demands yet again.
“What they want to do is to nibble, nibble, nibble away at the green belt until eventually it’s all gone and they’ll be free to build anywhere they like.
“There’s a different pretext each time the government changes the rules – this time it’s so-called ‘starter homes’ – but the plain fact is this drive for economic growth at any cost means we are losing precious countryside and green spaces that cannot be replaced, and that is a matter of our quality of life.
“Surely our environment is more important than this headlong rush to build and build?”
Burpham has progressed the furthest, with a plan that has been examined by an inspector and due to go out to a public referendum at a date not yet confirmed by the borough council.
The government consultation also seeks to allow development of brownfield land within the green belt.
Adds the consultation: “We propose to change policy to support the regeneration of previously developed brownfield sites in the green belt by allowing them to be developed in the same way as other brownfield land, providing this contributes to the delivery of starter homes, and subject to local consultation.
“We propose to amend the current policy test… that prevents development of brownfield land where there is any additional impact on the openness of the green belt to give more flexibility and enable suitable, sensitively designed redevelopment to come forward.
“We would make it clear that development on such land may be considered not inappropriate development where any harm to openness is not substantial.”