Planning law reform puts green belt and woodland at risk

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From: Mrs Y Rawcliffe, Woodlands Court, Pudsey, Leeds.

THE excellent article about the threat to ancient woodland by Mark Casci (Yorkshire Post, October 14) should be a wake-up call for all who value our green heritage.

As the article makes plain, under this Coalition Government’s proposed reform of planning law, ancient woodland, green belt and many sites of outstanding natural beauty will face greatly increased risk of development. These plans seem to be deliberately worded so as to favour development over conservation.

Insistence by the Government that it is committed to ensuring strong protection for ancient woodland and green belt is at odds with their plans to put power into the hands of local communities to decide which areas they wish to develop and which should be conserved.

This is hardly a protective measure – more a green light for developers and local planners, keen to get their hands on easy to develop land.

A case in point concerns Bradford’s Holme Wood and Tong Development Plan, which would involve building well over 2,600 new houses and constructing a major new road across several acres of green belt land, farmland and ancient woodland.

Holme Wood is one of the largest units of social housing in the country. It is already over-sized, and despite some laudable attempts to improve matters, Holme Wood remains a troubled estate. Local residents gave a resounding “no” to recent proposals to extend the estate by an additional 300 houses, so why are local planners now pushing for a very much larger development? Most people don’t want this leviathan imposed on their locality – certainly not at the expense of their much valued green belt.

Bradford does need more affordable housing, but not the potentially unmanageable development proposed.

Several smaller sites spread around the city region would be preferable – both for those who have to live there and also for the preservation of green belt.

In my opinion, the problem should be shared across the city, the use of brown field sites should be enforced and one specific area should not be “dumped on” because it seems the softest option.

It is obvious that our green belt, ancient woodlands and sites of outstanding natural beauty need far more robust protection than the proposals of our Government’s National Planning Policy Framework will provide.