TBAG launches national petition: To Protect English Green Belts


TBAG has launched a national petition through the 38 Degrees web site addressed to Sajid Javid MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to protect all of the Green Belts in England. We would urge you to sign the petition and please spread the word to all of your friends, relations, neighbours, colleagues and contacts wherever they live, and encourage them to promote it via Facebook, Twitter, Streetlife, email and other social media.  Apart we can make a noise; together we can make a difference.

The full wording of the petition can be found at https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/to-protect-english-green-belts and the supporting evidence may be examined here.


Ministerial statements and a statement by the Mayor of London

18 July 2016, Sajid Javid MP (Conservative) Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, in his first DCLG questions in Parliament said “The green belt is absolutely sacrosanct. We have made that clear: it was in the Conservative party manifesto and that will not change. The green belt remains special. Unless there are very exceptional circumstances, we should not be carrying out any development on it.”

18 July 2016, Gavin Barwell MP (Conservative) the new Housing and Planning Minister and Minister for London, said most development on the Green Belt is “inappropriate”.

22 June 2016, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan (Labour), in a press release affirmed his pledge to protect London’s Green Belt, saying “I am determined to oppose building on the Green Belt, which is now even more important than when it was created.”

7 June 2016, In a letter sent to all Members of Parliament for English Constituencies and headed “Development on Brownfield and Green Belt land”, the Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Brandon Lewis, MP (Conservative) (“Mr Lewis”) stated that “The Government has put in place the strongest protections for the Green Belt ….. and that Green Belt boundaries should be adjusted only in exceptional circumstances, through the Local Plan process and with the support of local peopleWe have been repeatedly clear that demand for housing alone will not change Green Belt boundaries.”

11 February 2016, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP (Conservative) (“Mr Clark”) and The Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP (Conservative) said in a press release on the Rural Planning Review, Call for Evidence that “…we are looking carefully at how our planning reforms can deliver this whilst at the same time ensuring local people have more control over planning and the Green Belt continues to be protected.”

2 December 2015, Mr Clark, announced “over 66,000 new affordable homes delivered in the last year – the highest annual increase since 1993; and numbers of new affordable and social rented homes up by nearly two-thirds in the last 12 months”.

20 November 2015, Mr Clark, Minister for Communities and Local Gov reported “186,000 more homes this year; over 753,000 additional homes since 2010; and highest annual increase in homes since 2008.  So what’s the panic to build on Green Belt.  Only urban sprawl will result from taking a Green Belt boundary here and putting it there.”

12 October 2015, David Cameron, Mr Lewis and Mr Clark said in a press release that “the Prime Minister is making crystal clear that he expects all councils to create and deliver local plans – making sure they take action to help reach the government’s ambition of delivering 1 million homes by 2020.”  So it is Government ‘ambition’ that seeks to spoil our Green Belt by pressurising local authorities to deliver local plans which will be passed as deliverable by the Planning Inspectorate, despite the platitudes to protect Green Belts which proceeded this press release.

31 August 2015  In DCLG document ‘Planning and travellers: proposed changes to planning policy and guidance Consultation response’, it states “Unmet need and personal circumstances, Para 3.23, With specific regard to protecting the Green Belt the Government has decided to amend national policy and Planning Policy for Traveller Sites to make clear that (subject to the best interests of the child) unmet need and personal circumstances are unlikely to clearly outweigh harm to the Green Belt, and any other harm so as to establish very special circumstances. This change applies equally to the settled and traveller communities.”

14 April 2015 Conservative Party Manifesto states that the Party will “…ensure local people have more control over planning and protect the Green Belt.” and “We will protect the Green Belt.  We have safeguarded national Green Belt protection and increased protection of important green spaces.” and that “Our plan of action: We will protect your countryside and Green Belt and urban environment … we will protect the Green Belt …”.

16 October 2014, Communities Secretary, the Rt Hon Sir Eric Pickles MP (Conservative) (“Mr Pickles”) said in a Coalition Press Release that “… these measures would ensure the green belt could continue to offer a “strong defence against urban sprawl in our towns and cities, …” and “…reaffirms how councils should use their local plan, drawing on protections in the National Planning Policy Framework, to protect the green lungs around towns and cities.”  It also reported that Mr Pickles said “I am crystal clear that the green belt must be protected from development, so it can continue to offer a strong defence against urban sprawl.”

13 October 2014 Mr Pickles, reminded the House of the Government’s intention to protect the Green Belt saying “…housing need does not justify the harm done to the green belt by inappropriate development. … we have been very clear that there is no central diktats demanding that councils rip up the green belt.”  And in a press release the same day, Mr Lewis referred to new planning measures that would “…at the same time protect our precious Green Belt.”  And in another press release on this day he stated that new planning measures would include “- automatic planning permission in principle on brownfield sites – to bring forward more land to build new homes quicker, while protecting the green belt …”.

6 October 2014 Planning Practice Guidance is published by the Government which states that “Unmet housing need ….is unlikely to outweigh the harm to the Green Belt and other harm to constitute the ‘very special circumstances’ justifying inappropriate development on a site within the Green Belt”.

6 October 2014 Ministerial Statement made by the then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Mr Pickles, urged Councils to protect our precious Green Belt land and saying This Government has been very clear that when planning for new buildings, protecting our precious Green Belt must be paramount.  Local people don’t want to lose their countryside to urban sprawl, or see the vital green lungs around their towns and cities to unnecessary development.”  The press release went on to say “…Councils should consider how they will protect and preserve important sites in their area, especially Green Belt sites.

17 January 2014 Statement made in the House of Commons by Mr Lewis as the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government: “… I also noted the Secretary of State’s [Mr Pickles’] policy position that unmet need, whether for traveller sites or for conventional housing, is unlikely to outweigh harm to the green belt and other harm to constitute the “very special circumstances” justifying inappropriate development in the green belt.  The Secretary of State wishes to re-emphasise this policy point to both local planning authorities and planning inspectors as a material consideration in their planning decisions. …”.

9 January 2014 Press release from Downing Street, the Prime Minister’s (Rt Hon David Cameron MP (Conservative)) Spokesperson said: the PM thought it was right to protect the Green Belt and development on green belt land was at record low levels. The government was putting local communities at the heart of planning decisions through Local Plans.”

1 July 2013  Ministerial statement, Mr Lewis as Minister of State for Housing and Planning said in the House of Commons that the Coalition Government had “… increased protection of the Green Belt …” and “Having considered recent planning decisions by councils and the Planning Inspectorate, it has become apparent that, in some cases, the green belt is not always being given the sufficient protection that was the explicit policy intent of ministers.”

1 July 2013  The Secretary of State, Mr Pickles, quoted saying “…unmet [housing] demand, whether for traveller sites or for conventional housing, is unlikely to outweigh harm to the Green Belt and other harm to constitute the ‘very special circumstances’ justifying inappropriate development in the Green Belt.“

17 September 2012 Downing Street Press Briefing, Prime Minister’s Spokesperson, when asked if the Green Belt was safe for the time being or until after the party conferences said ”… that the Government encouraged councils to examine flexibilities in the current planning regime.  We had a national planning framework, which had been published recently and there are no plans to change that.

17 August 2012 Coalition Government news article from the DCLG and Communities Minister Andrew Stunell MP (Liberal Democrat) said: The Green Belt provides an important protection against urban sprawl, providing a ‘green lung’ around towns and cities. The Coalition Agreement commits the Government to safeguarding Green Belt and other environmental designations, which they have been in the new National Planning Policy Framework.”

27 March 2012 National Planning Policy Framework published.

23 November 2011 Coalition Government news article from the DCLG and Mr Clark, a Government spokesman said: We have no plans to change Green Belt protection.  It plays a valuable role in stopping urban sprawl.

15 November 2011 Localism Bill receives Royal Assent.  Alleges giving more power to local people.

20 October 2011 Government announcement from DCLG and Mr Bob Neill MP (Conservative) reported on plans to abolish regional plans and protect the green belt.  “Pressure to build on the Green Belt is being removed with the revocation of Regional Plans according to environmental assessments published today.  The Coalition Government is committed, through the Localism Bill now passing through Parliament, to abolishing Regional Plans, which imposed housing targets on local communities and put pressure on councils to cut the Green Belt in 30 towns across the country.”  ‘Notes to editors’ at the end of the announcement stated: “6. The Government is introducing a stronger locally-led planning system, where local communities decide where development goes and receive benefits from that development through the New Homes Bonus and Community Infrastructure Levy. Communities will also have the power to prevent encroachment on the Green Belt and will benefit from a new special protection for green spaces under the Localism Bill.”  And “7. The draft National Planning Policy Framework also safeguards valued, national protection for our countryside including Green Belt, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest to protect them from encroachment.”

28 September 2011  DCLG, The Rt Hon Grant Shapps, MP (Conservative), Minister of State for Housing and Local Government, in a Departmental response to Daily Telegraph story on planning reforms and house prices:  “The Government is maintaining strong protections to safeguard the countryside, gardens, the Green Belt and other valued green spaces, including wildlife sites, from urban sprawl”.

14 September 2011 a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government (“DCLG”) and Mr Pickles in response to a Daily Telegraph story suggesting that the Green Belt will have ‘no protection’ under the National Planning Policy Framework that The Coalition Government stated its commitment to maintaining national Green Belt protection in its first weeks in the Coalition Agreement. The Green Belt has a valuable role in stopping urban sprawl and providing a green lung around towns and cities and this policy is continued in the new draft national planning policy framework.  “In addition the proposed abolition of the unpopular Regional Strategies, through the Localism Bill, will remove top-down pressure on councils to review the extent of their Green Belt which was likely to effect more than thirty areas across England. Our new draft planning policy on traveller sites explicitly increases protection for the Green Belt and open countryside.”


Report following Full Parish Council Meeting 29 September

TBAG would like to thank all those supporters who turned out at short notice to support our Committee members speaking in response to the publication of the Draft Local Plan at last Thursday’s full Parish Council meeting.  We were especially touched by those that made encouraging comments to us personally in support of our work.  We estimate that around 100 residents attended and many made their own comments to the Council in addition to those of TBAG.  No one spoke in favour of the Plan.

Councillor John Philip, Chair of Theydon Bois Parish Council and Theydon Bois District Councillor, is also Portfolio Holder for Planning Policy at EFDC with responsibility for the Local Plan.  He opened the meeting by assuring the assembled residents that it was intended that this document would be greatly altered and its impact significantly diminished before final submission for Examination in Public (EiP) where the Government’s Planning Inspectorate approves or rejects the Plan.

TBAG suggested that this document was therefore tantamount to scaremongering.  It had caused a great deal of consternation and concern in the village, and we suggested that it was designed as an artificially high bar which EFDC would be seen to lower following the consultation period with residents (31 October to 12 December 2016).  Residents would feel consoled by the great reduction in area to be developed and would accept it as a better proposition.  This smacks of the old developers’ trick of asking for more than you want and then negotiating down to get what you do want.  It is insulting to residents to play these tricks, upsets many residents, and might even cause people to sell their homes and move quickly when it is entirely unnecessary and certainly it temporarily devalues some residents’ homes.

But the fact remains that this document, at least in as far as it represents Theydon Bois, is a significantly different proposal than that published in the Issues & Options consultation document in July 2012 and which was widely circulated in hard copy, which you may recall showed three areas (shaded red) for potential development.  We ask why it has changed so radically in the last four years?

TBAG also reminded the Parish Council of many Ministerial statements that have been made over recent months and years in support of protecting the Green Belt.  One highly relevant letter dated 7 June 2016 (download here) and headed “Development on Brownfield and Green Belt land” was sent from the Minister of State for Housing and Planning (Brandon Lewis) to all Members of Parliament for English Constituencies.  In his letter, the Minister stated that “The Government has put in place the strongest protections for the Green Belt.”…….. “and that Green Belt boundaries should be adjusted only in exceptional circumstances, through the Local Plan process and with the support of local people.  We have been repeatedly clear that demand for housing alone will not change Green Belt boundaries.  Also on 13 October 2014, Mr Pickles as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, reminded the House of the Government’s intention to protect the Green Belt saying “…housing need does not justify the harm done to the green belt by inappropriate development. … we have been very clear that there is no central diktats demanding that councils rip up the green belt.” For further examples of Ministerial statements, see TBAG’s Autumn Update.

TBAG asked Cllr Philip to ensure maintenance of these party line assurances including that “the Green Belt is safe under us” (as quoted in the Conservative Party Manifesto April 2015 before the last election) here and everywhere in Epping Forest District.  The newly appointed (July 2016) Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid has stated “The Green Belt is absolutely sacrosanct.” and the Campaign to Protect Rural England have recently launched a comprehensive report (13 September 2016) entitled “Safe Under Us?”, which was attended by TBAG’s Chair in his capacity as Executive Committee Member of the London Green Belt Council, in which CPRE investigate the threats to development in the London Metropolitan Green Belt (LMGB) as a whole, and take issue with Mr Javid’s statement.  See http://www.cprelondon.org.uk/resources/item/2339-safe-under-us.  Essential reading for anyone interested in any part of the LMGB.

It follows therefore that housing demand should not constitute special enough circumstances for our Green Belt boundaries to be pushed aside for development.  Cllr Philip was reminded of his own words that It will also seek to protect all the most important things we love and cherish about our district including natural spaces and the Green Belt.”   All residents were seeking was an adherence to these statements in practical terms.

The meeting was also told that TfL now maintain that the Central Line is NOT running at full capacity.  Several residents found this rather hard to believe and further evidence of this claim has been requested as the influx of hundreds of new residents will put obvious pressure on the train services from Epping.  Further information has also been requested on Cllr Philip’s statement that EFDC have already taken into account the effect of Brexit on the forecast for housing demand in the district.  We await his response with interest.

The Draft Local Plan will be considered at Cabinet on 6 October before going to full District Council on 18 October.  It will then be officially published for public consultation on 31 October.  The next revision of this document is therefore expected on 31 October when residents will then have until 12 December to feedback their comments to EFDC.  Let’s hope they listen.

To download a copy of the Draft Local Plan, go to http://eppingforest.consultationonline.co.uk/technical-information/ and follow the link to the draft document.  The map for Theydon Bois is on page 266.  Note that all of the moved boundaries shown on the map are Green Belt boundaries and the majority are beyond the defensible  boundary (the railway lines) that have historically been considered the edge of settlement and village boundary both in planning and practical terms.

URGENT – EFDC propose moving Green Belt Boundaries around Theydon Bois

Over 300 homes, plus commercial site, are proposed for Theydon Bois Green Belt by EFDC’s Draft Local Plan.

This is an urgent call for supporters to attend the Full Parish Council Meeting on Thursday, 29 September 2016 at 8pm in the Village Hall to support TBAG’s response to this proposal.

This is an Extract Map from the Agenda for forthcoming EFDC Cabinet Meeting showing sites proposed to be removed from Green Belt surrounding our village (see here for the full document, this map is on page 266):