A letter to the Gloucestershire Echo in February 2017.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE GREEN BELT ON THE NORTH SIDE OF CHELTENHAM
To their credit, central government has been true to their word and re-emphasized the importance of the green belt in their recently published White Paper.
Unlike developers and town planners, I do not believe that the sacrifice of the green belt is inevitable in the immediate future, nor do I believe that local authorities and central government have taken the appropriate steps to ‘free up protected land’ to ensure a steady supply of housing.
Surface car-parking should go underground, freeing up land for development, and planning permissions should be started and completed within their three-year currency. This would be a start.
Whilst the Green Belt serves five purposes, the one that is foremost in most people’s mind is the one that ensures that there is no merging of one settlement with another, such as Cheltenham with Gloucester, Prestbury with Bishop’s Cleeve, Up Hatherley with Shurdington, and so on.
Failure to uphold this principle would be a disaster for Cheltenham and the surrounding areas, and is worth defending at all costs.
Paul Barton of Bruton Knowles (Echo Feb 17) seems to be disappointed that the Government’s White Paper does not “downsize the UK’s green belt”, making way for even more “significant development”.
His claim that it will not have any impact on housing waiting lists, or help thousands of people trying to get on the property ladder, is true, but sacrificing important green belt areas would not help these people in the slightest.
People on council housing lists are invariably looking for rented properties.
First-time buyers are finding the deposit required getting further and further out of their reach, so who are, and where are these people, who are going to fill these houses in the new developments?
The Secretary of State suggested that perhaps the figures for housing were being ‘fudged’.
After eight long and often agonizing years of trying to agree a housing, employment and transport strategy, the three councils (Cheltenham, Gloucester and Tewkesbury) have agreed a document that will bring about some measure of control and protection.
The strategy will not last forever, but it should be a strong defence against those who want to harm our beautiful countryside for at least the next fifteen years.
Hon. Alderman Les Godwin.