Monday, 3 February 2014

Should Newcastle Council be allowed to build on the Ponteland Greenbelt?

“The green belt is a Labour achievement, and we intend to build on it,” is one of the great John  Prescottisms of all time.

Ed Miliband has adopted the same approach: in December, in a speech he gave on Monday December 16 in Stevenage, he said that the neighbouring North Hertfordshire Council’s objection to building on the green belt should be brushed aside. This is like Newcastle Council saying we want to build on Northumberland's green belt. In where? I don't know, Ponteland perhaps? But I believe he is wrong: these are decisions that should be made in Northumberland or N Hertfordshire, not by Mr Miliband, or by the neighbouring town.

In response, the very robust Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said:
“Under Labour, housebuilding fell to its lowest peacetime rate since the 1920s. Their top-down Regional Strategies and eco-towns failed hardworking families who aspired to own their own home, building nothing but resentment.

“That’s why we have worked with local communities to help build more homes, scrapping Regional Strategies and rewarding construction via the New Homes Bonus. We are helping hardworking people up the housing ladder through Help to Buy and the reinvigorated Right to Buy. Both first time buyers and housing construction have risen to their highest level since 2007, whilst repossessions have plummeted thanks to the lower interest rates from our long term economic plan.

Labour’s policy shows this is the same old Labour party. They would allow Labour councils to forcibly rip up Green Belt protection in neighbouring councils. While their new tax on planning permission would reduce housebuilding and discourage regeneration schemes. We know there is more to do to help build homes. But this must be done by working with hardworking families in
communities across Britain, allowing councils to shape where development should and shouldn’t go via Local Plans, and safeguarding important environmental protections.”

It’s not just Mr Pickles attacking Labour on housing. The Labour MP, and former Housing Minister, John Healey is joining in. He says Labour is “preoccupied elsewhere” when it comes to making housing more affordable.

My only comment is that it is bad enough that Northumberland County Council is trying to build on our green belt. At least we have a democractic say, and a chance to influence the local authority. Under Miliband's plan, released in Stevenage before Christmas, it would be the neighbouring council that decided if we had building on our green belt. Of course, this means that my residents inNorthumberland would have no chance to object or disagree if this is what Newcastle or Miliband wants to happen. This is not socialism: it's borderline madness!