Late November saw an announcement by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid to introduce a Housing White Paper that would, among other measures, allow councils to develop Green Belt land if they replace it with other currently undesignated land that meets the ‘five purposes’ of Green Belt.
In response, this week saw efforts, during a debate on the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, from 15 Conservative MPs, to water down the proposals. Sutton Coldfield MP Andrew Mitchell led the move, tabling several amendments, one of which would remove the New Homes Bonus to councils for development in the Green Belt. Although not directed specifically at Green Belt swaps, the amendment if it had passed would have impacted any future Government action on the matter.
Mitchell has previously described the Bonus as a ‘bribe’, a comment that has caused defensive replies from developers and council leaders proposing development in the Green Belt, and has created a rallying point for protection advocates.
These actions represent an interesting split between the Government and their own MPs. With many of these MPs representing suburban marginal and semi-safe seats the Government must try and balance out their intention to drive housing development with the electoral threats posed in these seats.
One thing that is for sure is that both the proposed Neighbourhood Planning Bill and any future Green Belt swap Bill will likely have to be carried on the back of cross party support.