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Nadine Dorries MP

Nadine Dorries MP: It's time to defend the green belt

Following the reshuffle last week we experienced a rush of policy announcements, some of which were supply-side oriented and very welcome in the push for growth. I could ask the question, why has it taken two-and-a-half years? But I won’t.

The most exciting and the most worrying of policies were the responsibility of the new planning minister, often quoted as a personal friend of George Osborne and David Cameron, the very nice Nick Boles

To all those who would like to build a conservatory or extend a house over the next three years, go and fill yer’ boots. Nick announced that from the New Year, thankfully, planning laws are to be relaxed to enable this to happen.

This will move will facilitate trade for suppliers, greater demand on the high street, and a resurgence in DIY which will in turn lead to more jobs.

Home owners will be happy and it is a policy which is a win win all the way.

Congratulations Nick.

However, not all is rosy. Nick is also hinting at relaxing green belt planning legislation and I am afraid, if he wants to do that, he is going to have the mother of all fights on his hands from Conservatives across the land.

Speaking to a house owner this morning, I was taken aback by his vehemence regarding Nick’s refusal on Newsnight earlier in the week to confirm that the greenbelt was safe.

I have some sympathy for his concerns.

Most of us who have been Conservative MPs or councillors for some time, have not spent our political lives opposing the relentless attempts by the previous Labour Government to build on green belt, to then say “oh, go on then, if you must” just because the proposal has come from our own party.

Only 12% of the UK is green belt. It is a measly little amount which has taken blood sweat and tears to defend over the years. We don’t need to rob the next generation of its green lung in order to facilitate growth during an economic decline.

It is not good enough to neglect areas desperately in need of urban regeneration, and claim another acre of green belt to build on. Once it’s gone, we can never get it back. As a party, we cannot be so shallow as to jettison every argument we have deployed over the years against Labour, in order to turbo charge growth in time for the next election.

There are enough redundant brown field sites to support the building of 1.5million homes. Why don’t we start there? The centre of Luton and Bedford are screaming out for re-development in my own county of Bedfordshire.

There are other options.

Take Milton Keynes for example. A new town which began life in 1967. A town with aspirations to become a city and which has never stopped growing. There are areas within Milton Keynes which are now desperate for re-build and re-generation. Let’s look at the number of empty homes across the UK. According to the statistics for 2011, there are 720,000 empty homes. Let’s reclaim those first before we upset Conservative voters, councillors, MPs, association members, action groups and major organisations such as the National Trust. It really isn’t clever to upset people and call them ‘latter day luddites’, just because they want to hold onto what little is left of our green and pleasant land.

Let’s relax the planning laws on retail premises and allow them to be converted to residential without planning and the same with the thousands, if not millions of empty offices across the UK.

Nick Boles has a safe seat and a great future. Let’s hope he doesn’t spoil it by attacking the 12% holy grail at the heart of those who support and fight for our party. They will never forgive him if he does.


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