Skip to main content

Environmental Protections: Development

Volume 697: debated on Monday 14 June 2021

If he will publish the Government’s plans for environmental protections in the development process. (901081)

The planning for the future consultation closed in October 2020, and it generated an enormous amount of interest, with 44,000 responses. We are analysing those responses and will respond to the consultation in due course. We are committed to planning reforms that are intended to provide better protection for environmental assets. I have worked closely with my right hon. Friend the Environment Secretary as well as with my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Gareth Bacon) on the measures in the Environment Bill, and the planning reforms complement and reflect these.

The Government will shortly be bringing forward their planning Bill, which I recognise is needed to bring forward much needed new housing and infrastructure. My Orpington constituency is two-thirds rural, so what guarantees can my right hon. Friend give me and my constituents that green-belt and greenfield land will be protected from inappropriate development?

We are committed not only to protecting the green belt but to enhancing it, and those protections will remain in force when we bring in planning reforms. I can assure you, Mr Speaker, that we will not be taking the advice of the Select Committee, which suggested that we should undertake a wholesale reform of the green belt. We have committed to protect it, and so we shall, because only in exceptional circumstances may a local authority alter a green-belt boundary, using its local plan and consulting local people on where essential new housing should go, and it needs to show real evidence that it has examined all other reasonable options before proposing to release the green belt. We are committed to the green belt, and we will fight for it.

The planning system is integral to addressing the climate crisis and to protecting and enhancing our environment. However, many people rightly questioned the Government’s green credentials when the Secretary of State refused to block the proposed coalmine in Cumbria. Will the Minister therefore take the opportunity to show that the Government take our environment and the climate crisis seriously, and commit to the full suite of clear and measurable environmental targets in the forthcoming planning Bill?

First, may I welcome the hon. Lady to her place as the shadow planning Minister? I think we all share a commitment to protect the environment, which is why this Government were the first Government to commit to net zero. It is why, as housing and planning Minister, I am committed to the future homes standard, to ensure that we decarbonise future homes by at least 75%, and it is why the Environment Bill will ensure a biodiversity net gain of 10%. We will bake those environmental proposals into our planning reforms to make sure that we have a planning Bill to be proud of and that we protect our environment.