GOVERNMENT plans to vastly increase the supply of greenfield sites for new housing were condemned yesterday as "environmental vandalism" by the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
In one of the most outspoken attacks ever by one of the countryside's most respected bodies, the CPRE said plans produced by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott "would rip the heart out of planning and mark a return to the bad old days of greenfield sprawl."
Prescott is already at the centre of a huge row for sending in the bulldozers to destroy thousands of Victorian houses in northern cities like Liverpool, a project which he claims will re-vitalise inner city areas - a claim which the CPRE flatly rejects.
But his plans for massive housing developments in open countryside have driven the campaign to the verge of despair. Said Chief Executive Shaun Spiers:
'These proposals amount to environmental vandalism. They risk unleashing a tidal wave of urban sprawl on our countryside and at the same time condemning many of our most deprived communities to continuing urban decay.
'Since 1997 the Government has secured great progress in increasing the use of brownfield land, improving housing densities and ensuring that planning policy supports urban regeneration.
"These proposals risk undoing all that. You cannot both regenerate run-down towns and cities and have housing policy dictated by the market. We urge the Government to stand true to its professed agenda of urban regeneration, countryside protection and an improved quality of life.'