Heavyweights clash over housing shortage plans
Environmental campaigners have reacted angrily after
the planning minister and Kent MP Greg Clark attacked them for
opposing reforms he says will solve housing shortages.
Mr Clark went on the offensive in an interview defending
government plans for a wide-ranging shake-up of the planning
system. He said opponents of the change were
The changes will introduce a presumption in favour of
sustainable development, prompting critics like the Council for The
Protection of Rural England to say it will see developers
targetting green field sites.
But in outspoken comments, Mr Clark who is MP for
Tunbridge Wells, said: "Frankly you couldn’t change any element of
national planning policy without the CPRE objecting to it; they
have objected to every change in planning policy for as long as I
He went on to say that a failure to build more homes would
be a "huge social injustice" and that the public recognised more
needed to be done.
"People do have an interest in the future - to not care
shows a degree of nihilistic selfishness which is quite
Kent CPRE spokesman Jamie Weir said: "We do not want to
put the county in aspic - we just want to make sure that
development is appropriate, sustainable and done properly. If
developers did not put up sites that were not appropriate, we would
not object as vehemently and as often as we do."
"These comments do seem very defensive. He’s normally a
measured politician and has worked closely with us in the past but
they are not really appropriate for a minister."
Meanwhile, the Green party in Kent has also joined the
criticism of the government’s plans.
Spokesman Stephen Dawe said: "If passed, these proposals
will make it even harder to resist large-scale, unwanted planning
proposals or to insist on quality building. Essentially, instead of
having a planning system of laws and regulations fit for a modern,
complex society, the government would prefer we have planning
guidelines with loopholes to allow any form of development no
matter how damaging."
The planning shake-up is a sensitive policy area for the
government and particularly for the Conservatives, given that many
core supporters are traditionally from rural areas.
Figures show that over the last decade in Kent, nearly
38,000 homes were built on previously-developed sites with 17,320
being built on green field sites.
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