Prime Minister Rishi Sunak praises Dacorum for green belt

Rishi Sunak has praised Dacorum Borough Council for its approach to protecting the green belt
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Rishi Sunak has committed to protecting green belt land in a Hertfordshire borough from becoming housing estates.

And councillor Alan Anderson, who is responsible for “place” at Dacorum Borough Council, has promised brownfield regeneration will be a “priority” when the authority decides where new homes should be built.

His promise follows Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday, January 25, when the Prime Minister joined Hemel Hempstead MP Sir Mike Penning in praising the council’s approach to green belt protections.

Pictured: Footpath signPictured: Footpath sign
Pictured: Footpath sign

Sir Mike said: “Dacorum Borough Council, the Conservative-led council in my constituency, has done a fantastic job of building new houses, including social housing and council houses.

“Can the prime minister assure me that we will not be pushed into the green belt any more than we already have been and that we can protect the Chilterns in my constituency?”

Mr Sunak replied: “I join my right honourable friend in praising his local council for ensuring we build homes in the right places so that our young people can fulfil the dream of home ownership.

“He is also right to say that this government will always protect our precious green spaces.

“The recent changes in our planning reforms will ensure that we can protect the green belt everywhere.

“His local community and others will benefit from those protections as we keep our local areas beautiful.”

After the event, Sir Mike said: “I am pleased that the prime minister backed protection of the green belt. He is right, it is precious.

“People move to Hemel Hempstead because of access to green spaces and the proximity of the beautiful Chilterns.

“It is a fine balance, we desperately need new homes, but we cannot just keep building on green belt land.”

Cllr Anderson (Con, Kings Langley) said: “The council has a great track record of delivering new homes on brownfield land across Dacorum, by regenerating urban places, creating a new heart of mixed use development at the Maylands Business Park, Hemel Hempstead), and building the first council homes in a generation.

“We are building on these successes through our emerging strategy for the future of Hemel Hempstead, where brownfield regeneration will be a priority.

“I welcome the government’s commitment to the protection of the green belt, and the Council will be responding positively to consultation on the new national planning policy.”

The government’s late 2022 planning reforms feature a guarantee that planning authorities, such as Dacorum Borough Council, will not need to alter green belt boundaries if it’s the only way of meeting the need for new homes.

According to the latest “local plan”, which dates back to 2004 and sets out where and how new housing should emerge in the borough, Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted, Flamstead, Tring and King’s Langley are all surrounded by Metropolitan Green Belt.

By marking areas out as green belt, planners who want to build there must consider urban sprawl and “green infrastructure” such as open space and tree planting.

Part of the district falls in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which exists to “protect land to conserve and enhance its natural beauty”, while in November 2022, Dacorum Borough Council created a “mitigation strategy” for Ashridge Commons and Woods.

The plan has said developers must consider how to deal with threats to the beechwoods, including recreational impacts like vegetation wear and soil compaction, as well as fire and invasive species.

Despite protections in Dacorum, the size of London’s green belt has reduced by 6,840 hectares – or 1.3 per cent – since 2017.

The borough’s leader of the opposition, Councillor Ron Tindall (LD, Adeyfield West) pointed out that the government considers Dacorum’s local plan “out of date” because of the current planning rules.

“They have made a pig’s ear of it,” Cllr Tindall said.

“The fact is that nothing has happened on the local plan for a long time.

“I’m waiting to see what the government will actually do, and it would only take 30 or 40 MPs to gang up on the prime minister for him to change his mind.

“As a party group, we will work with whatever the government puts in place, but if they want to impinge upon the green belt, we would push back.

“What we need is not ‘build here, build there’, but to ask what the government is doing to build homes in a coordinated way, with homes for social rent, too.”