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Open Land And Parkland

Volume 403: debated on Thursday 10 April 2003

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What action the Government are taking to safeguard metropolitan open land against the pressures for urban and suburban development. [107471]


What plans the Government have for the safeguarding of parkland in suburban areas. [107473]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
(Mr. Tony McNulty)

In planning terms, metropolitan open land is afforded the same protection as designated green belt. Government policy on the green belt, as set out in planning policy guidance 2, has not changed.

If the policy is unchanged, can the Minister explain the circumstances in which my local council, which happens to be Conservative-controlled, could proceed with proposals to lift metropolitan open land protection of large areas of parkland, allotments and playing fields? Is it true, as the council claims, that the Government have threatened that, unless it does that and builds on green land specifically to meet housing targets, it will incur financial penalties from the Government?

It would be remiss of me to comment on second-hand hearsay, not least from a Tory council. As I said, the policy protection afforded to MOL is the same as that for green belt, as outlined in PPG2. That has not changed. [Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman, by his wiggling, is signalling that I should leave for my time travel or write to him, I am happy to write to him on the specifics but, as I said, I will not comment on second-hand hearsay from a Tory council.

Perhaps the Minister will consider the practice of the flagship Labour-controlled City of York council, which seems to build, or want to build, on every inch of parkland, green belt and greenfield site in its area. What reassurance can he give those of my constituents in Vale of York who live within the parameters of City of York council that their green belt, greenfield sites and green space in totality will be protected from such growth schemes as the northern gateway scheme?

I have no comment on the specifics of that. If the hon. Lady wants to write to me, I will look into the matter, but I respond to her point by mentioning the same planning protection for the designated typologies of land as is in legislation; it was inherited from the Conservatives. I am referring to PPG3, which talks about brownfield first, then urban edge, then greenfield and, in the final instance, green belt or MOL.

It is for each local planning authority, whatever its political make-up, to submit its plan in an orderly fashion. Plenty have not done that, which is why we are reviewing the entire planning system. I exhort all constituents, no matter to which party their MP belongs, seriously to engage in the development of those plans.