Planners eye green belts for housing

tliouk office at
Thu May 16 00:52:48 BST 2002

Planners eye green belts for housing 
Peter Hetherington, regional affairs editor
Thursday May 9, 2002 

Strict controls stopping development within England's green belts 
should be relaxed to ease the housing shortage, planners said 
The Royal Town Planning Institute urged ministers to allow limited 
building in the 15 green belts to fund "environmental enhancements". 
Warning that the belts, regarded as "green lungs" around 
conurbations, could no longer be regarded as "sacrosanct or 
inviolable", the institute called for them to be given a limited life 
span to take account of growing populations in particular areas. 
As Cambridge prepares for a government planning examination later 
this year to hear the county council's case for building in the south 
and east of the city's green belt, the institute's strategy will be 
seen as a direct challenge to the countryside lobby. Michael Haslam, 
the institute's president, said it might make more sense to find 
sites for building in the green belt on the edge of towns, rather 
than leapfrog into the open countryside. "If we don't allow existing 
cities to expand, then we are going to have to leapfrog to the next 
villages and market towns," he told the BBC. "This is not urban 
sprawl. We are talking about properly planned urban expansion... 
without great damage to the countryside." But Henry Oliver, head of 
planning for the Council for the Protection of Rural England, warned 
that loosening green belt restrictions would lead to urban sprawl. 
"Just because development leapfrogs the green belt, doesn't mean the 
belt isn't working. It means development controls beyond the green 
belt and efforts to encourage regeneration in cities need to be 
England's green belts, which began with Greater London's "green lung" 
in 1938, are lauded worldwide. At the moment, the green belts, which 
protect countryside around large conurbations as well as cities and 
towns, cover about 3.5 million acres. The government is under 
pressure now to release land in East Anglia and in the south-east. 

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