Greenbelt: could it have been spared?

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Several leading Conservatives have hit out at Broxtowe Borough Council after new protection for greenbelt land was announced by Eric Pickles, just weeks after they agreed to develop the land.

Despite vehement protests from local residents and pleas by councillors for the decision to be delayed, less than three weeks ago the council approved proposals to build more than 2,000 homes in Eastwood and Kimberley, with some on greenbelt land.

The new guidance from the Department of Communities and Local Government, released on Monday, said brownfield sites should be prioritised when building houses in order to protect the greenbelt.

At the full council meeting on September 17, leader of the Conservative opposition Richard Jackson convinced the council to hold a vote on whether to delay the decision on the land until Eric Pickles’ announcement, but the council voted against the delay by 23 votes to 15.

Cllr Jackson said: “When I pleaded with the council to delay their vote to wait for this new guidance, I was told new protections were ‘probably six months away’ and that this was ‘just a delaying tactic’.”

The new guidance explained that councils should use their local plan to safeguard their local area against urban sprawl and that, once established,greenbelt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional cases.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles added: “This government has been very clear that when planning for new buildings, protecting our precious green belt must be paramount.

“Local people don’t want to lose their countryside to urban sprawl.”

However, leader of Broxtowe council Milan Radulovic believes that the new guidance does not make a difference to the decision and would not have affected votes.

He said: “We have already chosen 1,400 brownfield sites for housing to protect the greenbelt.

“Greenbelt land was created to stop towns merging into other towns but every now and then we have to review the land to allow for natural expansion. Broxtowe will lose less than two per cent of the Greenbelt and the rest will be protected.”

Broxtowe MP Anna Soubry, who was involved in campaigning to protect the greenbelt, said: “We told Broxtowe to wait for this new guidance to save our Green Belt, now it’s too late. Shameful.”