Elections and the effect of the Green Hulk?
New guidance and a press release from the DCLG earlier this week highlighted again a thorny issue for the Conservatives in the run up to the General Election: the Green Belt.
Having watched the Conservative Party grapple with this issue over the years, I have come to the conclusion that the Green Belt is an "Incredible Hulk" issue for them – something that can be out of control and to be respected at times when they need to attract votes whilst at other times something that is more docile and to be vilified with promises made to expand development.
The pendulum is clearly swinging towards attracting votes as the latest [re]commitment is to protect the Green Belt from development on the basis that thousands of brownfield sites are available in the alternative. I remain to be convinced that as much brownfield land is available and easily developable as is believed.
Nonetheless the National Planning Practice Guidance webpages on Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment have been amended, among other things, to include a paragraph entitled "Do housing and economic needs override constraints on the use of land, such as Green Belt?"
The new paragraph affirms that local planning authorities should only alter established Green Belt boundaries in exceptional cases through alteration of their local plans. The guidance goes further by clarifying that unmet housing need (including traveller sites) is unlikely on its own to justify and outweigh harm to the Green Belt by inappropriate development.
The press release concludes that it is a matter for local planning authorities to decide where development should and should not go working in consultation with local communities.
So there it is. It is for local planning authorities to deal with the Green Hulk but let's be clear; over the next year, the Conservatives will be standing behind their voters and supporting robust Green Belt protection.