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National Planning Policy Framework

Volume 534: debated on Monday 31 October 2011

15. What assessment he has made of the legal opinion obtained by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England in relation to the green belt and the national planning policy framework. (77109)

The Government have clearly stated their determination to maintain strong protections for the green belt. Of course, by abolishing regional strategies we are removing the threat to the green belt in more than 30 separate locations across the country. We have received a large number of representations in relation to the NPPF and we will give all of them, from all sources, appropriate and careful consideration.

I note that the Minister is ignoring the legal opinion. Let me read to him what CPRE has to say. It is concerned that

“Green Belt policy would be undermined by the sustainable development presumption together with the expectation that applications should be approved unless there are adverse impacts to policies in the NPPF as a whole.”

What is he doing to address those concerns, which result from a legal opinion? Does he agree with that advice?

I have to say that one comes across a lot of legal opinions—I have done so myself in a previous life—and I have every respect for the author of that opinion, but we will consider it along with all the other submissions we consider in relation to the NPPF.

Perhaps the difficulty is that the countryside is not defined and neither are green spaces or green areas. Could we perhaps refer to “appropriate” rather than “sustainable” development?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her contribution. Obviously, we will consider any constructive suggestions, as we have made clear. It is worth bearing in mind that the presumption enhances a plan-led approach. Indeed, the significance of up-to-date plans is strengthened under our proposal, which I note that another eminent QC described in the planning encyclopaedia as an “excellent piece of work”.