In recognition of her record of staunch defence of the green belt, Theresa Villiers MP was asked to write the following article for the Daily Express, published in the paper today:
"For over 70 years, communities around England have been shielded by green belt rules which prevent residential development on open spaces at the edges of towns and cities. All that is under threat if Labour were to win the general election.
Mr Starmer wants to rip up green belt protections. He proudly says he will ‘ignore’ local views about what gets built, claiming that there is green belt land of poor ecological value which should go under the bulldozer.
That is the wrong approach for several reasons. Firstly “the countryside next door” (the name aptly coined by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England for the green belt) does contain many precious habitats. These need to play a crucial role in the commitment this country has made to nature conservation and recovery. We should be seeking to enhance their ecological value, not destroy it.
Secondly, the purpose of the green belt goes beyond the need to protect attractive landscapes (important though that is). It also prevents urban sprawl and stops towns from merging into one another.
Originally set out in Clement Attlee’s Town and Country Planning Act 1947, green belt rules finally marked the end of our capital’s relentless outward expansion. Without them, the London conurbation might be as big now as Los Angeles, or greater: it could have become a soulless dystopian mega-city, stretching out into rural areas, swallowing up towns and cities in its path.
And why allow Labour’s proposed ecological vandalism when there are so many planning permissions granted that have yet to be built? Why sacrifice our precious green belt when there are urban brownfield sites like Old Oak Common, Thamesmead, Silvertown, and Beckton where hundreds of thousands of new homes could be built? It is these, and other urban sites in the centres of our great northern cities, which the Government’s long term plan for housing rightly identifies as capable of playing a huge part in the further uplift in home-building we have promised.
Labour have nothing to offer first time buyers. They say they want to “back the builders”, but when they had a chance to vote for the Government’s modest reforms on nutrient pollution to unblock construction of 100,000 homes, Labour failed the test. They blocked the reform and blocked the homes. By contrast, Conservatives are determined to build the right homes in the right places, as well as protecting the green belt, and ensuring that communities have a strong say in what is built in their neighbourhood."