Fears over planners' ability to protect Green Belt

PUBLISHED: 11:23 06 March 2008 | UPDATED: 13:01 06 May 2010

CONCERNS about the resourcing of the council s planning department in light of the prospect of massive housing developments have been raised by a policy analyst. Dr Eric Midwinter, who acts as an analyst for the Harpenden Green Belt Association, warned th

CONCERNS about the resourcing of the council's planning department in light of the prospect of massive housing developments have been raised by a policy analyst.

Dr Eric Midwinter, who acts as an analyst for the Harpenden Green Belt Association, warned that the planning department would have its work cut out dealing with the scale of housing development being imposed by central Government.

And he warned of the danger that the building industry, which was no supporter of the Green Belt and driven only by profit, would gets its way.

The Green Belt Association, which was formed in 2003 to counter the growing threat to the countryside surrounding Harpenden, was responding to the council's consultation paper on strategic housing land availability.

Its aim is to help the council make important decisions on the delivery of sufficient land for housing to meet the district's future needs.

The main thrust of the association's response is that the council's planning department needs to "keep a grip" on developers.

It takes the view that the district council should invite separate bids for building on both previously developed sites and Green Belt/Greenfield sites.

It wants a survey to be carried out in the first instance on exactly how many houses could be built at existing locations, on "brownfield" sites and an estimate of the possibilities of windfall - unexpectedly available sites - empty houses and potential conversions of larger properties becoming available.

Only then, if it is absolutely essential, should recourse to Green Belt/Greenfield sites come into the reckoning.

The association is also urging the council to strengthen its approach to developers by involving as many residents as possible on consultation panels, ensuring "land banking" at a local level by developers is made public knowledge and ensuring that developers keep to their contractual obligations on such matters as the provision of social amenities alongside housing developments.

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