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Government 'has ruined countryside'

The countryside has been ruined by David Cameron and his Government, the outgoing head of the National Trust has said.

Simon Jenkins, who stepped down from his role as trust chairman yesterday, said the Prime Minister had broken a promise he made in 2012 to protect the countryside.

He also attacked Chancellor George Osborne for being a "friend" of builders and developers, alongside Communities Secretary Eric Pickles and Nick Boles, formerly planning minister and now Skills Minister.

Mr Jenkins singled out a promise Mr Cameron made to BBC One's Countryfile two years ago.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Mr Jenkins said: "He (Mr Cameron) pledged there that he would no more put the countryside at risk than his own family.

"But he has, in that he has allowed his Chancellor, George Osborne, and Eric Pickles, as local government and communities secretary, to ruin the countryside. We have been witnessing the disenfranchisement of rural Britain."

Developers and builders have successfully lobbied to build on the countryside as they have a friend in the Chancellor, according to Mr Jenkins.

He also accused Mr Boles of driving voters to Ukip because Nigel Farage's party are "more understanding" about protecting the countryside.

Mr Jenkins said: "They have a friend in Osborne, while until recently they had also a planning minister, Nick Boles, who was very sympathetic.

"It was Boles who was effectively a recruiting officer for Ukip, making many voters turn to that party because it is more understanding about protecting the countryside."

Mr Jenkins called for a new grading system of Britain's countryside to better protect it, with national parks receiving the highest grade, farmland with scenic significant the second, green belt the third and other land spread across four lower grades.

He told the newspaper: "We have looked after our cities very well for decades.

"We are very good at preserving architecture. But we are now really bad at protecting the countryside and landscapes. That's why I have been thinking about a grade system."

Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said: "Mr Jenkins's comments take no account of the strong protections we have put in place for the Green Belt as part of our planning reforms, so it can continue to offer a strong defence against urban sprawl.

"In particular, this includes putting Local Plans at the heart of the reformed system, so councils and local people whether in cities or the countryside can now decide where development should and shouldn't go, with measures to release more brownfield land for development.

"Official records show that green belt development is at its lowest rate since modern records began in 1989, while support for new housing is growing as communities get a greater say and can ensure development is built in the right place and meets their needs."

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