ON THE eve of a national conference due to open in Manchester to discuss the future of "sustainable communities" in the UK, Government plans today came under withering attack from the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
Plans drawn up by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott demand huge changes in the present planning laws and proposals to build up to three million new homes, almost half of them on greenfield sites, with attendant new roads, schools and other public buildings.
The CPRE, which has 59,000 active members, claims that the proposals are almost entirely focussed on South East England and the rest of the country is "being left to rot".
It is bitterly opposed to taking planning matters out of the hands of local councils, which have intimate knowledge of local needs, and says the new development will strangle attempts to breath new life into established country towns, where traditional High Streets face further decay because of competition from out-of-town shopping malls.
Says CPRE policy director Neil Sinden: "The reality of the sustainable communities plan is a long way from the rhetoric.
"Without an urgent change of course by all those involved, the countryside, urban regeneration and the quality of life of countless communities are set to suffer lasting damage in the coming months and years."