Battle brewing over green belt

A BATTLE royal is promised by growing groups of objectors including the National Trust against Government proposals to reform laws on planning and residential development in idyllic parts (the green belt) of the English countryside.

The green belt exists to preserve areas of outstanding natural beauty. Quite rightly rural preservation groups are criticising what promises to be a speculators and developers charter; these include the National Trust, the WI and Countryside Alliance.

The planning minister adds fuel to the argument by insulting critics, declaring they are ruled by nihilistic selfishness. The same approach includes the wind farm controversy. Major changes such as these should have the approval of local people and local councils should listen.

Government promises are shallow. The framework largely ignores the reason for the green belt. The ministry allows only a narrow corridor for habitats of wild creatures. Insidiously local councils are recommended to plan positively for new development on green belt countryside and oppose proposals to the contrary wherever possible.

This clearly implies speculators, developers and local councils will be given the green light and connive with greater intensity.

Argument for increased housing derives not so much on native birthrate as the increasing birthrate derived from uncontrolled migration and babies being linked to greater benefits. Developers already hold plots for 300,000 homes awaiting foundations, enough for more than two years, Why the hurry?

In the Fens, where land, sky and water meet I cannot seriously imagine highly productive peat and silt deposits being encroached upon by developers. On low-lying Fen stability would be problem. Land here is subjected to shrinkage and is not conductive to deeper reinforced foundations which would make residential building costs prohibitive.

This is very much in our favour. Nevertheless the ancient islands on which Fen communities developed could see residential expansion taking place on acres which are not as virile as that in the low fen areas, and towns and villages might well eventually merge.

Also favourable to local interests, the government realises the Fens’ vast acreage is, with good reason, the nation’s breadbasket.

Political powers endorsed the hugely expensive investment in Fenland’s land drainage technology said to be the most up-to-date in Europe.

Fenland with its myriad of dykes and controlled flooding harmonising with the man-made environment is not green belt but black gold and it serves the nation’s interest rather well.

Whatever the outcome of blinkered reasoning, brick and mortar speculators and planning departments should leave productive land, green belt or not, alone. Food supplies for our increasingly over-populated country are more important than today’s uninspiring housing estates.

TREVOR BEVIS

March