If there is one policy, above all others, for which the Conservatives in Barnet are justly proud, it is their relentless determination to preserve the green belt. Indeed, it was former Chipping Barnet MP Sir Sydney Chapman’s resolute defence of the green belt which persuaded me to join the local party.
In the 2006 Election Manifesto, Barnet Conservatives pledged:
- We will protect our Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Space from the plans that the Government has to develop every piece of land.
- Protecting the green belt has been paramount and no planning permissions have been granted by the Borough in the last 4 years that breach our commitment. We happily re-state that commitment.
Previously, Barnet operated a Unitary Development Plan (UDP) which was effectively a rule book for all planning, development and regeneration decisions. Every council created its own UDP based on its own local requirements.
But the government just can’t help interfering in our lives and fixing things which aren’t broken, so UDPs are set to disappear to be replaced by Local Development Frameworks.
However, councils do have the right to save policies from their UDPs by making an application to the Secretary of State for Local Government. On 22nd April, the Cabinet will be considering Cllr Cohen’s report which contains a list of policies to be scrapped and, unfortunately, protecting the green belt is one of them.
Why? Well according to the Cabinet papers, it is because green belt land will instead be protected by national policies. What this means in reality is that Barnet will no longer set its own green belt policies but will rely on the policies determined by the government. This is not acceptable.
Decisions which affect Barnet should be taken locally in Barnet. Otherwise, what is the point of electing a council?
Even if, as many of us hope, a Conservative government is returned to power next year, central government should not be able to determine Barnet’s green belt policies.
Just as Parliament has abdicated many of its powers to Brussels, so Barnet Council seems to want to give up its powers to Whitehall. It would then only be a matter of time before some jumped up European official told Barnet to build a tower block on the green belt and the council would be powerless to stop it.
The Conservatives were elected in 2006 on a clear promise to protect the green belt. No iffs or buts. Any Cabinet Member who votes to remove the green belt from local control will be named and shamed on this blog.