Conservatives press Ministers on Greenbelt protection

Conservative councillors in Bath and North East Somerset have written to the Government ministers in charge of planning and local government pressing them on the importance of protecting the area’s Greenbelt. Conservative Group Leader Councillor Francine Haeberling has written to Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Planning Minister Nick Boles MP expressing concerns over the council’s Core Strategy planning blueprint.

The letter comes as the council attempts to respond to concerns raised over the authority’s housing number calculations by the Planning Inspector looking into the B&NES Core Strategy.

In her letter, Councillor Haeberling raises concerns that B&NES is being pressed into delivering a level of new house building which is not sustainable for the area and which could put sensitive areas of local Greenbelt at risk.

Councillor Haeberling has said that the Council must not shirk its responsibilities to deliver the new homes needed to allow for future growth and help young people onto the housing ladder, but that this needs to be done in a sustainable manner.  Conservatives have also pointed out that with over two thirds of the B&NES area designated as either Greenbelt, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or a World Heritage Site, the Council faces particular difficulties in accommodating large-scale new development.

Cllr Francine Haeberling (Cons, Saltford) said:

“In the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework, published earlier this year, the importance of protecting Greenbelt is made crystal clear. But it is incumbent upon local authorities to ensure they have a local framework in place which affords this protection whilst identifying an adequate supply of development land.

“However, we currently have a situation where an independent Planning Inspector appears to be pushing B&NES into accommodating a level of house-building which would be unsustainable and difficult to deliver.

“In the meantime, the Council is having to fend off an increasing number of opportunistic planning applications from developers wanting to build new houses on green field sites.

“We need reassurance from Ministers that planning decisions should be taken locally and that the Council has the freedom to agree upon development plans which are right for our area.

“Conservative councillors will continue to press the need for a Brownfield-first development policy in the B&NES Core Strategy which protects our countryside.  In the meantime, the Council needs to be robust in defending unwanted Greenbelt applications.”