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Concern at Green Belt changes
CONCERNS have been raised by environmental groups at Government plans to make it easier to build on Green Belt land.
The proposals were made earlier this week by Chancellor George Osborne, who said they would boost economic growth.
The overhaul of the national planning process would give councils the power to approve development of Green Belt areas so long as another piece of land the same size was then reclassified as Green Belt.
Current planning regulations severely limit what can be built on Green Belt land, with much of Buckinghamshire being affected by the policy.
Mr Osborne's plans are set to be put in front of MPs next month - but in the meantime green groups have hit out at the proposals.
Paul Miner, Senior Planning Officer for the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, said: "The Green Belt is the most popular planning policy in England and the envy of the world. It helps regenerate our cities and stops them sprawling into rural areas. As a result, no one is ever too far from true, green English countryside.
"In times of economic slowdown, politicians can sometimes be tempted by the false promise of an easy construction boom. But destroying the countryside is not the path to lasting economic prosperity. Sustainable economic improvement can only come from the sort of urban regeneration that has already done much to rejuvenate many of our largest cities.
"Ministers have consistently maintained that they value the Green Belt and want to see it protected. Now is the time to put these words into action."
Any changes could seriously impact on the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which covers a large proportion of the county.
Colin White, planning officer at the Chilterns Conservation Board, said: "If it will impact on the AONB, we would be significantly concerned by that, particularly if any development was of a major kind. Even small developments can be major in the AONB.
"We are mindful of the implications on the AONB and we would be worried if Green Belt policy was relaxed to allow significant changes."
Mr Osborne said on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show this week: "I think we can speed up planning. It is absolutely ludicrous that it takes years to get planning decisions in this country. You can get much faster decisions on the continent, let alone in countries like China.
"This country, in the current economic environment, cannot afford to wait years for development."
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