The government is to unveil long-awaited planning reforms, but countryside campaigners say they could mean a return to urban sprawl.
The Planning Minister Greg Clark is due to make a statement to MPs on Tuesday 26th March. The government has consulted with developers and environmental groups on the plans, which will come into force immediately.
In the summer of 2011 ministers announced proposals for slimming down more than one thousand pages of planning policy into a fifty-page "national planning policy framework".
They said that the plans, which favour “sustainable development”, would boost growth while protecting the environment. But conservation and countryside groups such as the National Trust have expressed concerns that the plans will lead to mass building on green belt land.
Announcing the reforms during his Budget speech on Wednesday 21st March, the Chancellor George Osborne confirmed the plans' pro-growth agenda, saying the "presumption in favour of sustainable development" would stay.
Mr Osborne has tried to alleviate concerns, saying that the final policy will protect England's "most precious environments". But the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) feels that this is too vague, and that green belt land and national parks could be threatened.
The CPRE also says that the reforms may not deliver enough affordable homes - one of the key benefits that supporters of the changes say they will bring.
Barney White-Spunner, Executive Chairman of the Countryside Alliance, said the first draft of the reforms had been too vague on giving power to communities, and that he hoped the Government had listened to local concerns before announcing the final reforms.
– Barney White-Spunner, The Countryside Alliance
""At a time when rural pubs, shops and schools are closing at a worrying rate, a more simple but rigorous set of planning regulations could go a long way to reviving the struggling rural economy."