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Monday, 10 February, 2003, 09:24 GMT
Developers' threat to greenbelt
Field marked out into plots at Potters Bar. Used by permission of Andy Lord, campaigner
A field has been staked into plots near Potters Bar

Developers are making soaring profits from buying greenbelt land and selling it on to property speculators.

One farm in Hertfordshire - which was bought for 2,500 an acre - was sliced up and sold on for a staggering 35,000 an acre.

Although the owners cannot build on the land at the moment, countryside campaigners fear that pressure for new homes may mean planners change the rules.

Residents say that fences dividing the fields are spoiling the views.

New homes
New homes are needed in the south east
But Baron Deschauer, managing director of Warrengate Ltd, believes that the plots of land are a good investment for people.

He said: "I make it clear there is no planning permission. It is a speculative investment.

"I aim to democratise land ownership. I like land, it's the basis of capitalism.

"This scheme is allowing the ordinary person to buy a piece of land."

He said the land would increase in value if planning permission for homes is given in the future and criticised greenbelt rules.

Mr Deschauer said: "The policy itself was set up in the 1950s to rebuild the cities of England after World War II.

'Area ruined'

"We are now in a position where there is a bit of a crisis in London and the south east where nurses and doctors and teachers can't find a home they can afford."

At Tewin Grove, Tewin, near Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, Warrengate Ltd bought about 150 acres of land at 2,500 an acre from a farmer.

The land was divided up and sold on at 35,000 an acre, making a profit of about 5m.

But it has given the fields at Tewin the appearance of a "First World War battlefield", according to Hertfordshire campaigner Peter Leigh.

He has seen the greenbelt land at Tewin Grove divided into one to one-and-a-half acre plots which have been fenced off.

"This very beautiful part of Hertfordshire and hundreds of acres have been fenced off," said Mr Leigh, who is chairman of the Tewin Society.

"The whole area is completely ruined."

Other parts of Hertfordshire, such as greenbelt land near Potters Bar, have also been targeted by property speculators.

Greenbelt campaigner, Ronald Smith, who lives in Potters Bar, fears that people who buy the land will eventually gain permission to build houses.

He said: "The parcelling up of land will make it impossible to use for its agricultural purpose."

'Carved up'

Julie Stainton, a planning officer for the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) said: "Our specific concern is the countryside is being degraded by this carving up with fences.

"This will have an impact on the maintenance of the landscape and people's interest in maintaining the landscape."

Ms Stainton said at present councils are only able to stop companies fencing off parcels of land if they act before the fences are put up.

The CPRE wants the government to look at giving local authorities more powers to deal with this issue.

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See also:

17 Jan 02 | England
15 Nov 01 | England
30 Apr 01 | Politics
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