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Wednesday, 5 February, 2003, 17:07 GMT
Anger over new homes plans
New homes being built
Thousands of homes are to be built in the south-east
Plans to build thousands of new homes in south-east England have been condemned by environmental groups and opposition leaders.

They believe the housing developments will lead to the widespread destruction of undeveloped greenfield sites.

Building density could double in some areas from 25 to 50 homes per hectare which, they argue, the environment cannot cope with.

But Wednesday's announcement was welcomed by other groups, including the Prince's Foundation, which praised the government for its commitment to higher density housing.

'Enormous urbanisation'

The M11 corridor, linking London, Stansted and Cambridge will be one of the key areas affected.

It could end up producing more dismal, dormitory-type developments

Julie Stainton - CPRE
Residents have already expressed concerns about separate plans to expand Stansted Airport.

Paul Garland of Friends of the Earth said the new housing would not help the area.

Mr Garland, who was speaking to BBC News 24 from Thaxted in Essex, said: "I accept that new houses do have to be built, but only for those people who need to live in them.

"This is going to drag in a lot of other people who do not already live here - there is going to be an enormous urbanisation taking place."

Housing associations

Liberal Democrat Alan Dean, a councillor in nearby Uttlesford district, accepts that there is a need for affordable housing.

But he said the government should look at alternatives, including housing associations.

"In that way, we can avoid concreting over the whole of the countryside - which is what Mr Prescott is talking about - and providing for almost the rest of the country," he said.

There are four main areas earmarked for development, reaching as far as Corby in Northamptonshire and Ashford in Kent.

'Dismal sprawl'

The Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) said it believed the plans for the South East would smother thousands of acres of greenfield sites.

"The environment simply can't take the scale of growth proposed," spokeswoman Julie Stainton told BBC News.

"It could end up producing more dismal, dormitory-type developments that sprawl over green fields."

A spokesman said that although the CPRE had previously supported Mr Prescott's housing plans, it feared a return to the "discredited predict-and-provide approach".

'Truly sustainable'

But the government's plans were welcomed by some organisations.

The extra funding in areas of low demand will help revitalise them and is particularly welcome

Council of Mortgage Lenders
Corby development firm Catalyst Corby is involved in plans to double the population of the area, building 28,000 new homes.

Its chief executive, Bob Lane, welcomed John Prescott's announcement, which will provide extra public investment for its plans.

And a spokesperson for the Prince's Foundation congratulated the government on "committing to truly sustainable and higher-density communities - whether in areas of major growth or comparative decline".

The charity, which was set up by Prince Charles to promote thoughtful development, is already working with the government on a number of housing projects across the UK.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders praised Mr Prescott's efforts to "address the imbalances in housing supply and demand".

Its deputy director general Peter Williams said: "The extra funding in areas of low demand will help revitalise them and is particularly welcome."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's John Andrews
"For years Britain has been building too few homes"
John Calcutt, builders Crest Nicholson
"At the moment we've got vast areas of derelict land in the south east"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Greenfield crisis
Are Prescott's new housing plans sensible?
See also:

05 Feb 03 | England
05 Feb 03 | UK
27 Jan 03 | Business
28 Jan 03 | England
18 Sep 02 | England
Links to more England stories are at the foot of the page.


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