No recent changes have been made to planning policy in respect of rural areas.
May I bring to my hon. Friend’s attention the fact that Kent science park has recently been allowed to extend on to green land? That was done with his Department’s knowledge and before the transport analysis had been done in respect of exit 5 of the M2. Will his Department do some joined-up thinking, so that transport is taken into consideration before more is done on green land?
I wonder whether the Minister will answer the question that the Secretary of State ducked twice, which is this: why is the south-west spatial strategy, which has been roundly condemned up and down the peninsula and which has now gone back to the drawing board, still being used in guidance as a basis for planning in the rural areas of the south-west?
I would not want to tear the Minister away from Dudley at a weekend, but will he come the short distance up the M42 to North-West Leicestershire to meet me, Mr. Steve Leary and the Minorca open-cast protest group to look at the impact of the application on the eastern fringe of the large village of Measham? He might then give a different answer from the one that he gave to question 3 a moment or two ago.
On 11 July 2007, the Prime Minister told the House:
“I assure the House that we will continue robustly to protect the land designated as green belt.”—[Official Report, 11 July 2007; Vol. 462, c. 1450.]
The day before, his official spokesman told the Lobby:
“We are not proposing any changes to our very robust protection of the green belt.”
Why then are regional spatial strategies, which are signed off by Ministers, currently deleting the green belt across the whole country?
That is nonsense. We have not changed our policy on the green belt and we have no plans to do so. Green belt has actually increased by 34,000 hectares since 1997, while 80 per cent. of development takes place on brownfield land. The hon. Gentleman should be telling his constituents and the rest of the country why the Conservative party has adopted a policy that is anti-growth, anti-housing and anti-doing anything to get us through this recession.