Green Belt Needs More Protection under Planning Reform, Say MPs

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Byline: Kirsty Walker Political Correspondent

REFORMS to the planning system are contradictory and confusing, MPs warned yesterday.

A Commons committee has written to the Prime Minister highlighting concerns about a shake-up labelled a development 'free for all'.

A Government policy document says that local councils should approve all future building projects unless there is a strong reason to refuse them.

The most significant change is that local authorities would adopt a default position of answering 'yes' to all proposals for developments.

MPs on the environmental audit committee took the unusual step of writing directly to Mr Cameron to highlight their concerns and call for a more clearly defined policy.

Ministers claim the new rules are a vital part of plans to kickstart economic growth but campaigners, including the National Trust, fear they will allow the countryside to be carved up.

The proposals represent the biggest change in planning law for 50 years. More than 1,000 pages of policy will be cut to just 52.

The intervention of the MPs is significant because planning minister Greg Clarke has assured the committee their views will be considered.

Joan Walley, the committee chairman, said: 'As it currently stands, the new planning policy framework appears contradictory and confusing.

'It pays lip service to sustainable development without providing a clear definition, potentially leaving future planning decisions open to legal challenges. …