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Green belt only safe 'for now', planning minister Nick Boles admits

The green belt around the country’s towns and cities is safe “for now”, new planning minister Nick Boles has told MPs.

(Source: www.telegraph.co.uk, 17 Sep 2012)

Planning minister Nick Boles warned that not all green belt was beautiful green fields as he hinted that land would not be safe from development. The words will be seen by campaigners as a clear hint that the Government is looking at relaxing the rules on building on the green belt.

England’s green belt covers over 6,000 square miles of countryside around towns and cities to prevent urban sprawl.

There have been persistent reports that ministers are looking at loosening rules on building on the green belt in an economic development bill.

Mr Boles, in his first appearance at the Commons' dispatch box since he was appointed planning minister in the reshuffle, said: “There are certain sites within the green belt which are brownfield and it is important and right for local authorities to bring them forward for development. Not all of the green belt is beautiful greenfields, some of it is a quarry or has some other brownfield use. It is important to focus on bringing forward those sites first before thinking of anything further.”

Mr Boles’s comments are likely to fuel rumours that ministers want to make it easier for developers to build on green belt land around towns and cities.

Shaun Spiers, the chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: "We would have hoped for much stronger defence of the green belt than the minister gave in Parliament."

Asked about Mr Boles' comments, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman denied there were plans to make it easier to build on the green belt. He said: “There are flexibilities within the current planning regime – in some parts of the country they are quite good at using those flexibilities. We have a national planning framework which was finalised quite recently and there isn’t any plan to change that.”

It is feared Mr Boles, who in January described countryside campaigners as “hysterical, scare-mongering latter day Luddites”, wants to rip up the delicate consensus around planning after national policy was set in April this year.

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