asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he intends to revise his guidance on planning policy in the green belt; and if he will make a statement.
No, Sir. The Government's policy is that there should be no inappropriate development in the green belt.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply.If the acreage of green belt has doubled during the period of this Government, is that not evidence in itself that the balance between the needs of primary agriculture and those who have a genuine interest in matters environmental — not just a party-political, partisan approach—is well safeguarded by the proven record of the present Administration?
Yes, that is the case. In fact, the area of approved green belt in England has more than doubled since 1979 to 4·5 million acres. I confirm again that approval should not be given, except in very special circumstances, for development in the green belt for purposes other than those connected with agriculture, sport, cemeteries or institutions standing in extensive grounds, or for other uses appropriate to a rural area. That has always been the position, and I reaffirm it now.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend is aware that in Harlow two controversial planning applications have been made, one of which is concerned with the green belt. They relate to Brenthill park and the Guilden way. My right hon. Friend is shortly to make a decision about Brenthill park, but I understand that a public inquiry is to be held on 16 June on the Guilden way application. As the two applications are intertwined, will my right hon. Friend seriously consider——
Go on, Harpo.
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. For once in my life I have been put off by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). Will my right hon. Friend seriously consider—[Interruption.]
Order. Give him a chance.
As the two public inquiries are intertwined, will my right hon. Friend seriously consider on 16 June delaying the decision on Guilden way until after a decision has been made on Brenthill park?
I cannot entirely accept my hon. Friend's assertion about the intertwining of the two applications. I feel that each must be considered on its merits, and I also feel that we owe to those who appeal for permission a duty to deal with their applications speedily. I therefore believe that it would be right to proceed with the first application as speedily as possible, and to take the second in the normal sequence.