ENGLAND'S greenbelt, one of the most successful planning measures in the past 100 years, is under the greatest threat it has ever faced, according to leaked reports in yesterday's newspapers. And the man appointed to protect rural England is in favour of large tracts of it being built over, according to the Sunday Times.
The paper claims that Sir Martin Doughty, chairman of the newly created quango Natural England, will today (October 29) make a keynote speech saying that parts of the greenbelt must be surrendered if the Government is to meet its target of building three million new homes by 2020. Even this figure is probably too low to cope with a population expected to grow by five million by the end of this decade, according to critics.
The greenbelt was set up 80 years ago after a campaign by the then newly formed Campaign to Protect Rural England to stop "ribbon-development" which was rapidly joining small towns together into one urban sprawl.
Until now, it has remained more or less sacrosanct and if it is to be decimated, without a fight by Natural England, Sir Martin will undoubtedly be accused of a massive betrayal by country lovers. On of the loudest protests is like to come from the England-domiciled American writer Bill Bryson, the current president of the CPRE, who lived in the Yorkshire Dales for several years and wrote some of his most successful books in Malhamdale, near Skipton.