Green Belt is threatened by housing rush warns Notts MP

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Image caption Could the Green Belt be eroded by new housing developments?

It's been claimed that plans to build thousands of new homes on Green Belt land in the East Midlands are being deliberately rushed through by some of our local councils.

One MP, Broxtowe's Anna Soubry, has also warned of a real danger of urban sprawl on the outskirts of Nottingham.

Now the issue has been raised in Parliament.

Green Belt is aimed at safeguarding communities from losing their identity to over development.

It was first introduced in the late 1930s to ensure London retained some of its 'green lungs' and open spaces.

But the idea really took seed in our other big cities during Clement Atlee's Labour government, after the Second World War.

Avoiding sprawl

It's up to local councils to designate the land it wants to protect from over development.

There's a parcel of such land at suburban Toton.

It's part of the region's Green Belt to prevent urban sprawl between the cities of Nottingham and Derby.

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Image caption MP Anna Soubry is concerned that parts of the Green Belt will be lost forever

It's now been earmarked for some of the 6,000 new homes that Broxtowe Council wants to build, mostly on Green Belt, to meet growing housing demand.

It's highly controversial.

"You only have to look around so many areas to see the impact of urban sprawl.

"Green Belt is there for a reason. It's to protect our environment for future generations," says Christine Batham, of the Toton Environment Protection Society.

MPs are due to debate the government's new planning guidance to councils later this week. But Broxtowe MP Anna Soubry - with excellent timing - has managed to jump the gun.

She secured a parliamentary debate to raise her concerns about the threat to the Green Belt in Nottinghamshire and her Broxtowe constituency in particular.

She warned that some councils are deliberately rushing through plans to build on Green Belt.

And that's because they want plans off the drawing board before the last Labour government's housing targets are officially abolished next spring.

'Gone forever'

"We need to ensure the Green Belt is not only protected, but enhanced," Anna Soubry told me.

"They are loved, cared for and valued. Unfortunately, there is a real danger that Broxtowe Council wants to build on our Green Belt. Once it's gone, it's gone forever.

"The loss of Green Belt leads to an unacceptable spread of urban sprawl," she added.

The government estimates that about 30 Green Belt sites around England's biggest towns and cities are threatened by housing development.

Research by BBC Radio Nottingham revealed that in Nottinghamshire alone, there are plans to build on 13 green belt sites.

The government's planning minister Andrew Stunell has told Anna Soubry he shares her concerns about Broxtowe Council's intentions.

So will this Liberal Democrat coalition minister make those views clear to his Liberal Democrat councillors in Broxtowe, where they are in coalition with Labour?

"The government values Green Belt very highly and retaining the green belt was part of the coalition agreement," he told MPs.

Housing targets

Next spring, the government's Localism Bill finally becomes law.

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Image caption The Localism Bill will give communities a bigger say on where new housing should be built in their area

It'll give local communities a bigger say on where new housing should be built in their area.

Some councils fear that will be a recipe for planning deadlock, as residents attempt to block future house building developments.

Until then, the Labour government's regional housing targets remain in force.

For some councils, those targets for new homes are the very minimum that will be needed in the years ahead... to address the country's growing housing shortage.