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Green belt land in Redbridge

Volume 596: debated on Wednesday 27 May 2015

The Petition of the Save Oakfield Site (SOS) campaign group,

Declares that the precious, high quality sports field known as Oakfield has twelve full size and nine junior size grass football pitches and four cricket grounds as well as two large pavilions which together act as an inclusive social hub contributing to community cohesion; further that the Petitioners believe that there are proposals to concrete over this irreplaceable green belt land and to destroy the pavilions; further that this would be a massive and irreversible loss to the residents of the Borough of Redbridge, to the many sportsmen and sportswomen in the surrounding London Boroughs and in the County of Essex and beyond, and to the many voluntary and other organisations that provide services to local schools and the wider public; further that the London Borough of Redbridge has planned to seek de-classification of green belt status for Oakfield; further that the Petitioners believe that these plans have occurred without good reason following a flawed process; further that at a time when sport is seen as the Olympic Legacy and as the solution to ever-increasing obesity in the nation, removal of such facilities represents a loss of opportunity for exercise for the existing and growing number of potential users and increases the risk of ill health and will also put further strain on NHS resources; further that the Borough Council would be failing to supply conveniently located, good quality playing fields to satisfy the current demand and the likely future demand in line with the policy of Sport England; further that the proposed development of the stated 800 units of housing on the site will increase already chaotic traffic congestion to intolerable levels and will increase the local pollution level which currently exceeds the rate that is identified as acceptable by the EU and the WHO and will reduce safety without contributing anything significant to social and key-worker homes; and further that all this is based on long-term population projections for the Borough that extrapolate from past trend analysis to produce unrealistic and unfounded housing demands on the Borough that ignore the needs and rights of the existing population for a sustainable quality of life and are unfair in relation to other London Boroughs and national Government demographic policies.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges Redbridge Borough Council to reconsider the proposal to develop the Oakfield site for housing and further request that the House of Commons urges the Government to reject any requests to remove green belt status from Oakfield.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Lee Scott, Official Report, 10 February 2015; Vol. 748, c. 592.]

[P001433]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, received 27 March 2015:

Given my quasi-judicial role in the planning system I cannot comment on specific Local Plans or development proposals. However, I am aware that the London Borough of Redbridge is undertaking a review of its Local Plan (Core Strategy) which was adopted in 2008, and that in 2010 it undertook a Green Belt Study to inform its Local Plan review.

The petition expresses particular reservations over the council’s proposal to release Green Belt land at Oakfield for the allocation of 800 homes.

The National Planning Policy Framework provides strong protection for the Green Belt, making it clear that most new building is inappropriate there. Green Belt is created and protected by local planning authorities, in line with national policy set out in the Framework. This makes it clear that most new building is inappropriate there; and a Green Belt boundary may be altered only in exceptional circumstances, through the Local Plan. New guidance in 2014 underlined the protection for Green Belt when local authorities plan to meet housing and other needs.

The Framework also empowers communities to use their Local Plan or Neighbourhood Plan to designate smaller areas as Local Green Space. Designation rules out new development there other than in very special circumstances.

This Government do not set top down housing targets or require local authorities to provide more homes than are needed, but the Framework does ask authorities to plan to meet their objectively assessed local housing needs in full, so far as is consistent with the policies in the Framework as a whole.

Planning authorities should also ensure that there is adequate infrastructure to support whatever development they approve. Where air quality is poor they should designate an Air Quality Management Area and develop an Action Plan.

As the Framework says (paragraphs 73-74), access to high quality open spaces and opportunities for sport and recreation can make an important contribution to the health and wellbeing of communities. Planning policies should be based on robust and up-to-date assessments of the needs for open space, sports and recreation facilities and opportunities for new provision. Existing open space, sports and recreational buildings and land, including playing fields, should not be built on unless an assessment has been undertaken which has clearly shown the land to be surplus to requirements; or unless the land lost to sport or recreation would be replaced by equivalent or better provision in a suitable location. The Framework also makes clear that, in the Green Belt, local planning authorities should look for opportunities to provide access and opportunities for outdoor sport and recreation.

The London Plan, for instance, commits the Mayor of London to work with strategic partners to protect, promote and expand the extent and quality of, and access to, London’s network of green infrastructure. This will secure benefits including biodiversity; natural and historic landscapes, sport and recreation. Brownfield sites across London are being targeted for redevelopment in order to limit pressure on Green Belt and greenfield land.

The Framework should be read as a whole, and it requires planners to have regard to a range of different social, economic and environmental priorities. Local authorities often have to balance apparently conflicting priorities when determining planning issues. Ultimately it is for each local authority to satisfy itself that the plan it submits for examination to the Planning Inspectorate is sound. A plan is sound if it is properly prepared, justified, effective and consistent with national policy in the Framework.