Left 'driving planning opposition'
A government minister has claimed that opposition to proposed planning law reforms is driven by "left-wingers" within pressure groups "picking a fight with the Government".
Organisations like the National Trust and the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) have spoken out against the planned changes.
The National Trust has signalled its "grave concerns" over the planning reforms, warning that the proposed changes "could lead to unchecked and damaging development in the undesignated countryside on a scale not seen since the 1930s".
And the CPRE has warned that the planning system is "under attack from the Government's planning reforms", which would lead to the protection of precious countryside being "seriously weakened". The reforms are designed to streamline the rules surrounding new developments, cutting the current 1,300 pages of national planning policy to just 52. Councils will be told there should be a "presumption for development".
The CPRE has warned that the changes represent "the biggest shake-up of planning for over 50 years" and will "place the countryside under increasing threat and leave local communities and planning authorities largely powerless in the face of developer pressure".
Asked about opposition to the changes, planning minister Bob Neill told the Daily Telegraph: "This is a carefully choreographed smear campaign by left-wingers based within the national headquarters of pressure groups. This is more about a small number of interest groups trying to justify their own existence, going out of their way by picking a fight with Government."
Shadow local government minister Barbara Keeley said: "Labour shares the concern that this might lead to inappropriate development and loss of greenbelt or greenfield land. MPs have not been given adequate chances to scrutinise these proposals and we are now calling for adequate time for debate on these radical reforms."
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said that the Green Belt will not be threatened by the proposed changes.
"We have made our commitment to the Green Belt crystal clear. It is in the Coalition Agreement, and our proposed abolition of the unpopular regional strategies through the Localism Bill will stop the top-down pressure to remove the Green Belt in thirty areas across England," said the spokesman.
Meanwhile, the economic secretary to the Treasury, Justine Greening, said: "Reform of the planning system is vital. It's one of the keys to achieving strong, sustainable and balanced growth across the UK, and that's why it was central to the Government's Plan for Growth. These changes will keep important environmental safeguards firmly in place while helping businesses to create jobs and invest in local communities for the long term."