Queen, BAE and BP to make billions from developing greenbelt

Ecovillage Network UK office at evnuk.org.uk
Mon Mar 12 17:22:52 GMT 2007


10,000 acres of greenbelt under threat

Developments stand to make millions for Queen, BP and British Aerospace
John Vidal, environment editor
Monday March 12, 2007

The Queen, British Aerospace and BP will make billions of pounds from
developing the greenbelt under proposals to meet government housing
targets. Research by the Guardian and the Campaign to Protect Rural
England shows at least 10,000 acres of greenbelt land are likely to be
sacrificed to build some of the biggest developments in Britain in the
past 30 years.

In addition, speculators have bought large areas of greenbelt land,
which protects the countryside from urban sprawl, in expectation that
the forthcoming government white paper on planning will relax rural
protection rules.

Local authorities in the Midlands, Avon and Eastern England say that if
regional housing targets set by central government are to be met, the
greenbelt that has been the mainstay of environmental protection for 50
years will be decimated.

"Many villages will be engulfed by housing, several towns could nearly
double in size and others would effectively join up with each other to
create new conurbations", said Shaun Spiers, CPRE's chief executive.
"This is a time of unprecedented change in the countryside."
Housebuilders, universities, airports, and retail parks are all seeking
to take advantage of government housing targets and changes in the
planning system.

BP stands to make nearly £10bn if its advanced plans to build 20,000
houses on 3,700 acres of greenbelt land that it owns in Hertfordshire
are accepted. The Crown Estate, which manages property owned by the
Queen, could make up to £500m from the development of 6,000 homes near
the A1 (M), while Arlington Securities, the former property arm of
British Aerospace, hopes to make £3bn from the sale of some of its
greenbelt land at Hatfield.

In the West Midlands, where the government wants up to 575,000 homes to
be built in the next 20 years, large areas of the greenbelt and open
countryside are threatened, say local authorities.

Coventry, Walsall, Lichfield and the Black Country all stand to lose
protected land. Worcester, Redditch, and Rugby will only be able to meet
their housing targets if they build on their greenbelts.

"It is going to be death by sprawl. All the greenbelt is at risk", said
a West Midlands CPRE officer, Gerald Kells.

The research identifies major erosion of the greenbelt in many areas:

· Bath, York, Oxford and Cambridge universities want to release large
amounts of greenbelt land which they own.

· Six Oxfordshire landowners, including Thames Water, Magdalen and
Brasenose colleges, are lobbying planners to release thousands of acres
of their greenbelt. Thames and Magdalen stand to make more than £300m if
their plans for up to 8,500 houses are approved.

· Several regional airports will need to destroy large areas of
greenbelt land to expand as planned. Gatwick wants 240 hectares for a
second runway, and Luton, Manchester, Bristol and Liverpool airports
will also need to grow on greenbelt land.

· Annual reports show that major housebuilders have more than 200,000
acres of greenfield sites "under option" to develop.

· Some of the biggest developments are planned for Hertfordshire. "We
are being asked to take a minimum of 92,000 new homes, of which nearly
30,000 will have to on greenbelt land", said Derrick Ashley, the
executive council member for planning at Hertfordshire county council.
"If these plans go ahead there will be almost continual ribbon
development for miles. Nowhere is safe."
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

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