‘Intolerable situation’ in demand for homes
ROLLING hills, lush meadows and fertile farmlands are a common sight in Notts. And green campaigners are keen to keep it that way.
So they were shocked at the suggestion this weekend from a Government minister that such land could be “boring” and make way for housing developments.
Among those bemused by the comments is Green Party Councillor for Lady Bay, Richard Mallender, who slammed Planning Minister Nick Boles for saying that some green fields are “environmentally uninteresting.”
Mr Mallender, who yesterday took part in the Great Notts Bike Ride, said: “I’ve been cycling through rural Rushcliffe and there’s lots of beautiful green space and it is not boring and is not wasted.
“It is beautiful to look at, there are crops growing and cows and sheep grazing in the fields. It is supporting bees, which we are being encouraged to look after because they are so important.
“Yes we need housing, but there are plenty of brownfield sites that have stood empty for a long time that need developing.”
Anna Soubry wrote to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to tell him that the demands of Government planning inspectors have left Broxtowe struggling to meet their quota of new houseswithout damaging Green Belt sites.
She wrote: “This is an intolerable situation which has undermined the assurances on the Green Belt given by yourself and the Prime Minister”.
In response, Mr Boles, under-secretary to Mr Pickles, said some “environmentally uninteresting” green field sites or even Green Belt could not be guaranteed protection from development in Broxtowe.
Controversial plans for 450 houses on Green Belt land at Field Farm, Broxtowe, were recently approved despite protests from The Stapleford and Trowell Rural Action Group (STRAG).
Zoe Cockcroft, chairman of STRAG, said: “‘Low quality, environmentally uninteresting fields’ certainly isn’t a qualification which applies to Field Farm. The site comprises good quality agricultural land as well as woodland connecting Nottingham city with the open countryside, forming a unique ecological corridor.”
Nita Green, Conservative Councillor for Nuthall East and Strelley for Broxtowe Borough Council, said she agreed with Miss Soubry’s stance that local authorities are being forced to approve developments their residents oppose.
“When it comes to local decisions, if the Government decides they want the land they will take it regardless of what local people want,” she said.
“I think Nick Boles’ statement is an awful thing to say,” she added.
Rushcliffe borough councillor for Cotgrave Richard Butler agreed. He said: “I don’t think it’s a particularly helpful expression,” he said.
“The Government has been putting more pressure on local authorities like Rushcliffe to find more land for housing. They are just handing over the problem to councils.”
Malcolm Baker, chairman of Rushcliffe Residents’ Association, who campaigned against 1,200 homes being built at Sharphill, near Edwalton, added: “Before building on any green site they should exhaust every single one of the brownfield sites.
“Once it’s all gone, then I can understand the theory of building on ‘uninteresting’ green sites.”
The letters between Miss Soubry and the Department of Communities and Local Government are published on her website, and the Broxtowe MP said people are free to discuss the details of her correspondence – but refused to be drawn on the issue.
She said: “If you believe in localism, it puts ministers in a very difficult place.
“Nick Boles knows my views and there’s no call for a public debate.”
By Ben Ireland