As I am sure you are aware, Ipswich does not have a Green Belt. The Green Belt was set up as a policy to protect the area around Greater London from continuous development. Subsequent Green Belts have been set up around various other towns including Cambridge, but Ipswich is not one of them.
I understand the concerns you have raised about the potential for the Government to weaken protections for Green Belt land. In 2012, the Coalition Government replaced all existing planning guidance – except on waste – with the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and National Planning Practice Guidance. I believe these reforms weakened the National Brownfield Strategy, promoted in 2003, which actively prioritised building on brownfield sites.
The Government published its housing white paper in February, along with a consultation seeking views on amending the NPPF to allow local authorities to amend Green Belt boundaries in “exceptional circumstances”. The consultation ran from 7 February to 2 May 2017 and the Government said it expects to announce its conclusions “in due course”. This policy would not affect Ipswich at all, as Ipswich does not have an official Green Belt. Under the circumstances I don’t think it would be sensible for me to write as Ipswich MP on an issue which does not affect my constituency.
However, I am concerned that the Government’s planning reforms have failed to do enough to promote brownfield development. The Government rejected an Opposition amendment to the Housing and Planning Act during its consideration in Parliament which would have ensured automatic planning permission would be limited to housing on brownfield land. Ipswich has significant areas of brownfield land which would be ideal for housing – particularly in the centre of town – and government policy is doing nothing to ensure that they are built on. Moreover, the government has deliberately intervened to prevent the building of council houses on some of Ipswich’s brownfield land, an action which flies in the face of their stated aim to improve housing numbers.
While local areas should be able to make their own decisions on land use, I believe the NPPF should include a clear brownfield first policy to ensure the planning system allows sustainable growth while protecting green spaces and the natural environment. At the General Election I stood on a manifesto which pledged to protect the Green Belt and prioritise brownfield land for development in Ipswich and across the country.
Ahead of the Autumn Budget, I believe it is important that the Government fully considers the responses to its consultation and bears in mind the concerns raised by groups such as the Campaign to Protect Rural England.