Green Belt (Protection) Bill

Mike Wood: The problem might be even more complex. Much of the green belt that adjoins my constituency is over the border in South Staffordshire, and my constituents will have next to no say about decisions on the release of the green belt, given that it is the responsibility of South Staffordshire District Council and its local plan. Does my hon. Friend think that that issue needs to be addressed to protect our green belt?

 

Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

Absolutely, and that is inherent in what I am trying to establish, which is a national register of green-belt land and national responsibility for its protection and maintenance, rather than putting pressure on local authorities to erode the green belt at a local level. The Government are intent on forcing local authorities to bring forward land for development, and effectively allowing developers a free-for-all.

To illustrate my concern, let me give some data from Christchurch, which in 2014 had 3,480 hectares of green-belt land. Since then, 210 hectares have been removed—a 7% loss in four years. Since 2014, 160 hectares have been lost in East Dorset District Council, which is partly in my constituency, principally in and around the West Parley and Longham communities. As we speak, local councils are openly inviting bids from owners of green-belt land to offer it up for de-designation and consequent development, meaning that all green-belt land is now vulnerable to losing its protected status. That point was made strongly to me at a meeting last month with Longham residents association. People there who bought houses in the expectation that they would be protected by being in the green belt now find that they no longer have the assurance of that protected designation.

Clause 1 of the Bill is designed to require even greater transparency about the loss of green-belt land. The Campaign to Protect Rural England has been doing a great job, but a national public register of all green-belt land in England, and all land removed from or added to the green belt, would increase that transparency. Clause 2 seeks to remove the incentives for local authorities to de-designate green-belt land, as it would allow that only if alternative land of the same or greater area was added at the same time. The replacement land would need to abut land that is already developed, or that has above average density of housing. Thereby, the new green-belt land would increase that amenity for those living adjacent to it. Most importantly, the Bill would restrict the density of development on former green-belt land. That would be a disincentive to developers to develop green-belt land rather than brownfield land.