HC Deb 22 June 1988 vol 135 cc1120-1
12. Mr. Cryer

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the criteria applied in appeals for planning consent for building in green belt areas.

Mr. Ridley

Planning policy on development in green belts is set out in planning policy guidance note No. 2, copies of which are in the Library. Inside a green belt planning permission should not be given, except in very special circumstances, for the construction of new buildings or for the change of use of existing building other than for agriculture and forestry, outdoor sport, cemeteries, institutions standing in extensive grounds, and other uses appropriate to a rural area.

Mr. Cryer

Will the Secretary of State assure the House that he will apply those criteria to the area around his own house? Will he also apply them to land owned by such bodies as area health authorities, which frequently own the land around hospitals for the mentally handicapped? Will he use those criteria to make sure that hospitals, such as Westwood hospital in my constituency, are retained for the benefit of the people who live there in rolling acres, so that the land is not sold off for profitable development, but is retained for people who need as much help as they can get?

Mr. Ridley

I have anticipated the hon. Gentleman, because a circular issued deals precisely with the point of redundant National Health Service hospitals in the green belt and more or less follows the same advice as the main circular. Of course, I cannot comment on any specific planning application as the hon. Gentleman suggested I should.

Mr. Steen

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the draft circular confirms that the green belt should not be eaten into? Will he also confirm that it is a draft circular and that green fields should not be built on if there is vacant derelict land in public ownership that could be built on first? Once the housing allocation in the local plan has been used up for the five-year period, will he confirm that planning inspectors will be told to refuse applications if the number of houses proposed is greater than the number scheduled in the local plan?

Mr. Ridley

The circular about which I spoke in response to the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) deals with the green belt. It is not a draft circular and has not been changed for many decades. My hon. Friend asks about the draft circular on local plans. As I said earlier, I confirm that where a local plan is up to date and formal my inspectors and I would be very likely to adhere to what is in that plan on appeal, even if the plan had no further room for development because all space had been used up.

Mr. Rooker

Does the Secretary of State notice how the interchange of green belt and green fields comes from his hon. Friends? Not every green field is green belt, and that point must be continually reinforced. If we had never built on a green field, no one would ever have had a home.

Mr. Ridley

I strongly agree with the hon. Gentleman. It is imperative for people to understand the difference between any green field and land that is in the statutory green belt. It is the latter that causes people great concern, and I have solidly adhered to the view that it should never be built on except for the reasons that I gave in answer to the hon. Member for Bradford, South.