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EDITIONS
Monday, 30 April, 2001, 19:09 GMT 20:09 UK
Tories pledge to protect greenbelt
The government says greenbelt land has increased by 30,000 hectares
Greenbelt land would be safer from concrete under a Conservative government, according to shadow environment secretary Archie Norman.

A Tory administration would abolish national and regional house building targets "within weeks" of winning a general election, promised Mr Norman on Monday.


Conservatives will protect the greenbelt from further encroachment

Archie Norman
Local authorities would be freed from central government "diktats" and given the power to determine the number of houses built in their own areas, says the party.

The Liberal Democrats have dismissed the plans, saying they would lead to a collective "not in my back yard" attitude, with local councils unable to provide enough capacity or plan strategically.

Speaking as the Tories launched their "Save Our Greenfields" battle bus tour in Hertfordshire, Mr Norman claimed Labour planned to concrete over the countryside with unwanted development.

"Conservatives will protect the greenbelt from further encroachment and make it easier for councils to designate more land with greenbelt protection," he said.

No shortage

A Tory spokeswoman accepted that more houses needed to be built, but denied the Lib Dem accusation that it could lead to a housing shortage.

Local authorities would respond to local demand for housing, she said.

"It is not for government to impose on a local authority a greater number of houses than it can deal with."

Tim Loughton, shadow minister for regeneration, accused Labour and Liberal Democrats of conspiring to ruin rural areas.

Archie Norman
Norman: Conservatives will give councils more power
He said: "Across the country, Labour with their Lib Dem cronies, are planning to concrete over the countryside and bulldoze the greenbelt.

"John Prescott is issuing Soviet-style diktats to local councils forcing them to construct millions of buildings on greenfield land."

Labour was building "the wrong houses in the wrong places," he said.

Areas under threat included parts of Hertfordshire, Newcastle, Cambridge, and Devon, he added.

A higher average age and divorce rate has led to an increased demand for housing and, say critics, greater pressure to build on greenbelt areas.

But the government has defended its record.

'No threat'

Planning minister Nick Raynsford said claims that the greenbelt was under threat were "totally unfounded".

He said: "Labour has strengthened protection of the greenbelt and has added 30,000 hectares to it - an area three times the size of Bristol."

The Lib Dems have called for a greenfield development tax to fund improvements to the quality of brownfield sites.

Environment spokesman Don Foster called for moves to reduce the need for extra housing in the first place, pointing out that there are currently 750,000 properties around the country not in use.

Mr Foster also argued for a wider reduction in VAT on repair and renovation and a VAT increase on building new houses.

See also:

06 Feb 01 | UK Politics
11 Jan 00 | UK Politics
11 Dec 99 | UK Politics
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