We don’t have the right to develop the Green Belt, says Blunt

The Metropolitan Green Belt, which covers most of Surrey, is a vital national institution and “we don’t have the right” to give up areas of the Green Belt for development.

That was the message from Crispin Blunt, Conservative MP for Reigate, at the conference of the Surrey Branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) at Dorking Halls on Saturday (18 May).

“This is London’s Green Belt and we don’t have the right to give it away to developers” Mr Blunt told the conference. It is all that stops London spreading out and expanding “all the way down into Sussex”, he added.

The Reigate MP said that CPRE was right to insist that the housing targets imposed on Surrey districts and boroughs are “unrealistic and unsustainable” and should be reduced.

He said that towns like Reigate were being told they needed more development. “But we don’t need more development. We don’t need hundreds of new businesses and jobs. Other parts of the country might but we don’t.”

Mr Blunt said that the Green Belt “makes Surrey special” and that “protection of the environment should be our No.1 priority”.

The Green Belt is also that stops London spreading out and expanding “all the way down into Sussex”.

The CPRE conference was attended by local countryside campaigners from all over Surrey, including Liberal Democrat, Green Party and UKIP councillors.

In a hard-hitting speech, Surrey County Councillor Ian Beardsmore, a Liberal Democrat representing Sunbury, said that “we need a robust, realistic appraisal of housing need in Surrey – not housing demand or aspiration but genuine local need.”

The Government, he said, had failed to get rid of top-down housing targets. Communities Secretary Eric Pickles “is a clone of John Prescott”, said Cllr Beardsmore. “Pickles and Prescott are like Tweedledum and Tweedledee. But at least Prescott was an honest barbarian. Pickles pretends to be promoting localism but he isn’t.”

Surrey County Councillor Jonathan Essex, a Green Party councillor representing Redhill, said that everyone who believes in defending the Green Belt should cooperate more closely together. “We must stand together, as a counterweight to the forces of self-interested, speculative development.”

He said that the pursuit of economic growth should not be given precedence over the protection of the environment. Instead he set out a vision of “sustainable local economies – throughout Surrey and throughout Britain.”

Chris Windridge, Chair of the CR3 Forum, the neighbourhood forum for Caterham, Chaldon and Whyteleafe, explained that more than three quarters of people in those villages had said no to any building on the Green Belt and the same proportion had said no to extra housing.

Tim Harrold, Vice-President of CPRE Surrey, said that while the county was being forced to accept the building of thousands of new houses at the same time it was being starved of resources for essential infrastructure improvements. He said that traffic problems in Guildford, for example, could be solved by building a tunnel under the town. This would greatly improve the quality of life for people in the area, he said.

Tim Murphy, CPRE Surrey Branch Chair, attacked the Government’s planning reforms and said that the Planning Inspectorate should stop trying to impose “completely unrealistic” housing figures on Surrey’s districts.

The CPRE Surrey conference voted overwhelmingly for a resolution opposing any loss of Green Belt or countryside in Surrey, and urging district and borough councils across the county to safeguard the boundaries of the Green Belt.

-Ends

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