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An update on our Green Belt campaign

7th December 2021

Over the past six months our CPRE Hertfordshire Green Belt campaign has been in full swing, and we’re making progress.

At the end of July, we published our latest Green Belt report. In this report we highlighted the growing disconnect between recent Government statements and national planning policy regarding Green Belt protection, and the application of planning policy at a local level.

Since publication of this research, we have been busy lobbying our MPs. We sent a copy of the report to each Hertfordshire MP. In our letter we asked them to press the Government to issue clear guidance to local planning authorities and planning inspectors on the need to protect designated areas from inappropriate development of all kinds and that meeting housing targets is never a reason to cause irreversible harm to our Green Belt.

Here is a short update on the progress we have made since July.

Guidance on how to interpret the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

We believe that the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which guides the development of Local Plans already contains appropriate language that protects the Green Belt and other designated areas from development. What is needed is guidance on how to interpret the relevant policy statements.

We have developed a technical guidance note that the Housing Minister or Chief Planner could issue to Local Authorities that would strengthen the interpretation of the National Planning Policy Framework in protecting the Green Belt and other designated areas. Here is our guidance note.

Virtual meetings with our MPs

We have met with five of our Hertfordshire MPs, via Zoom, and hope to meet with the remaining six in the next 60 days. We have reviewed the key findings of the Green Belt report with them and requested their support in calling for the Government to issue a technical clarification to Local Authorities and Planning Inspectors. We know that three of the MPs have taken up our request and written to the Secretary of State or the Minister for Housing with a copy of the technical guidance note. We await the response.

Tribute to CPRE Hertfordshire in the House of Commons

On 19 November the House of Commons held the second reading of the Planning Enforcement Bill. When Gagan Mohindra, MP for South West Hertfordshire, was speaking in support of the Bill and briefly paused, Julie Marson, MP for Hertford and Stortford, stood up and asked Gagan to join her in paying tribute to the work that CPRE Hertfordshire does to protect the Hertfordshire countryside. You can view the video clip here.

Westminster Hall debate on Hertfordshire’s Green Belt

Following our meeting with Daisy Cooper, MP for St Albans, she secured a Westminster Hall debate on 23 November. The motion was “Hertfordshire Green Belt and the National Planning Policy Framework”. You can view the debate on the – Commons archive. The relevant section starts at 16:00.

In this debate the response from Christopher Pincher, Minister for Housing, contained some interesting statements about the importance of protecting the Green Belt during the development of Local Plans. You can read the full text of the debate at Hansard – Westminster Hall Debate – Hertfordshire Green Belt.

We think this extract is particularly relevant:

'Our commitment to the green belt is absolutely steadfast: the Prime Minister made that clear in his Conservative party conference speech last month. It is a manifesto commitment on which the Government were elected, to protect the green belt and associated countryside for future generations.'
Christopher Pincher, Minister of State for Housing, 23 November 2021

And this extract is also highly relevant:

'As the hon. Member for St Albans rightly says, the (‘standard method’) formula is a starting point; it is not an end point. It is for local authorities, working with the Planning Inspectorate, to determine the right number of homes based on the constraints or ambitions that they may have. I refer her to a letter that I circulated to Members of Parliament on, I think, 16 December of last year, which made it absolutely clear that local authorities are able to cite, to the Planning Inspectorate, constraints as reasons why the numbers into their plans are different from the local housing need number, which is the default calculation. As I have said, it is for local authorities to demonstrate and determine what the number should be.'
Christopher Pincher, Minister of State for Housing, 23 November 2021

So we have made some progress in engaging and mobilizing our local MPs. We have raised the profile of the issues, and we’ve proposed a solution. However, we still await action from the Government to turn its media statements on protecting the Green Belt into a guidance note to Local Authorities and Planning Inspectors on how the National Planning Policy Framework should be used to protect the Green Belt and other designated areas.

The Green Belt at Northaw Road, Cuffley CPRE Hertfordshire
a dark sky at night with hundreds of stars visible in the milky way overhead