Headlines: November 3rd, 2008

A report today which calls on the Government to revise its housing targets has been welcomed by green campaigners. The Environmental Audit Committee is warning in its report that unless the targets for new homes are cut in the light of the economic downturn there could be a swathe of green field development.

The committee’s long-awaited report was immediately supported by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England. Kate Gordon, CPRE’s senior planner, said, “The Environmental Audit Committee’s excellent report hits the nail on the head. We wholeheartedly endorse its recommendations, and share the deep concerns of the committee’s members.

She said the Government had a good record of building on brownfield land but pressure to use green field sites for development would intensify in an economic downturn. “Inflexible Government targets and planning rules are forcing local councils across the country to needlessly allocate green field land for housing,” Ms Gordon said and added, “Without a policy change local authorities will have no choice but to grant permission for green field development.”

The CPRE believes the current economic situation makes it vital that the target of three million new homes by 2020 should be reviewed because of the danger that developers will “cherry pick” green field sites over less profitable brownfield locations. It is urging the Government to heed the committee’s advice and act on its recommendations, which include the introduction to planning policy of a clear sequential test favouring brownfield sites for development; using targets to make new homes zero carbon by 2016 to speed up the development of community renewable energy sources and a review of plans for eco-towns to ensure they have good public transport links.