Questions Ministers must heed on green belt development

Have your say

From: Norma Scott, Woodroyd Gardens, Ilkley.

AS Parliament debates the Growth and Infrastructure Bill. I would ask the Campaign to Protect Rural England – and others – to stand up for a Growth Bill that protects the countryside.

I listened to the Planning Minister Nick Boles on the television last week and was appalled by his cavalier attitude to building on the green belt.

It appears to be out of step with his boss Eric Pickles, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, who is on record as saying “the green belt is an important protection against urban sprawl, providing a green lung around towns and cities”.

Mr Boles has also said that migrants accounted for almost half of the housing demand, and his figures suggest 100,000 new homes a year will be needed to accommodate them. With up to two million acres of green fields under threat to deal with the housing shortage, I hope the following questions are asked of Mr Boles – and that he provides meaningful answers.

Does he realise that Ilkley is the jewel in Bradford’s crown as far as tourism is concerned?

Who needs houses in the Bradford Metropolitan area?

How affordable will these houses be?

How many of these “migrants” he talks about are single?

Considering the Government is planning to penalise anyone in council or housing association property, who for whatever reason, has too many bedrooms, do we need more one-bedroom flats or three-bedroom houses?

Where do people generally work?

How will they get to work?

Where will their children go to school?

Which brownfield sites and derelict sub-standard houses in Bradford and Keighley (the Aire Valley) has he earmarked for restoration?

Before he glibly gives permission for houses to be built on green belt land, I would like confirmation that he has done his homework. Presently, Ilkley Grammar is oversubscribed and there doesn’t appear to be anywhere to build a bigger school.

Trains from Ilkley to Leeds are packed to capacity during rush hour. The bus takes forever (50 minutes from Ilkley to Keighley) and is expensive. The roads are totally inadequate to cope with the traffic. The above does not take into consideration any other demands on the infrastructure.

We are led to believe that generally most migrants do menial jobs which British people are reluctant to do. If this is the case, does he have any idea how these low-paid workers are going to afford a house in Ilkley after the developers have bought prime green belt land?

It is obvious that these decisions are being forced through by the Government, perhaps Mr Pickles and Mr Boles would care to visit Ilkley.

From: Andrew Lund, Ben Rhydding Drive, Ilkley.

I HAVE no doubt that many of your readers are concerned about the Government’s new planning policies. Quite what these are seems to change with each Ministerial pronouncement, the latest of which by Nick Boles MP suggests that houses should be built on open countryside covering an area the size of Greater London.

At the same time he states that the green belt will be protected and so he reaffirms what other Government Ministers, not least the Prime Minister, have publicly stated in recent months.

This should be reassuring to the residents of West and South Yorkshire where green belt land surrounds all our cities, towns and villages, but we are, in fact, being seriously mislead because our local authorities are working on development plans many of which feature the release of designated green belt for housing development.

They take this lenient course to appease developers who prefer to build on attractive sites which are near to existing settlements.

Brownfield land tends to be less appealing and can be more difficult to develop, while greenfield sites outside the green belt usually lack adequate infrastructure yet the money for new schools, healthcare facilities and transport links is not available.

Building on the edges of towns and villages is the easy option, and if the land in question has been released from the green 
belt, the politicians will say 
they have honoured their promise.

The Government needs to clear up, once and for all, the 
confusion which reigns over this issue and must require local councils to continue the protection of existing green belt land and to prohibit them from releasing it by redrawing the boundaries.

Doing so would surely persuade housebuilders to get on with the development of landbanked sites on which they hold thousands of planning approvals, and to look more favourably at the regeneration of previously developed areas.