Page last updated at 16:42 GMT, Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Lobbyists told they are too late

Campaigners at Westminster
In the end the housing minister met with local MPs opposed to the plans

Campaigners who travelled to Westminster to lobby against plans for 56,000 new homes in Gloucestershire were refused a meeting with a minister.

They were expecting to meet housing minister Ian Wright but were told this was no longer legally possible as the consultation period had now closed.

The protesters wanted to discuss a regional plan which will mean thousands of new houses by 2026.

The government says it wants to tackle housing shortages and affordability.

'Devastating effects'

Helen Wells, who travelled to Westminster and campaigns for the group Save The Countryside, said: "Much of the housing proposed is for massive urban extensions in the green belt or on green field land which will have devastating effects on the countryside and wildlife.

"Also, we all remember the flooding of 2007 in Tewkesbury and we are concerned that's going to happen again - more housing means less displacement for water and more flooding."

There was a touch of 'Yes Minister' about the meeting
Martin Horwood MP (Liberal Democrat) - Cheltenham

Housing minister Ian Wright then agreed to a private meeting with the local MPs who are opposed to the government's plans.

Liberal Democrat MP for Cheltenham, Martin Horwood, said: "I think we genuinely surprised him by explaining how much of the green belt and how many green field sites are now at risk.

"I don't think his officials have been telling him that. There was a touch of 'Yes Minister' about the meeting and maybe that message will get through.

"Maybe it will penetrate through to government - penetrate to the senior ministers who will actually then take the decision necessary to save some of our countryside."

A spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said: "The South West is facing long term housing shortages and affordability issues.

"It is already the only region with above average house prices and below average incomes. If more homes are not built the housing ladder will get even further out of reach leaving the next generation with nowhere to live."

In response to fears about green belt land, the spokesman continued: "The government has no intention of weakening the protection given to green belt in planning decisions.

"We believe it is possible to build the homes future generations need whilst protecting the environment and green spaces."

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