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Nick Boles issues warning to Planning Inspectorate over green belt reviews

Words: Laura Chubb
Nick Boles

Planning minister Nick Boles has written to the chief executive of the Planning Inspectorate to contend that local authorities must choose to review green belt boundaries, rather than have inspectors impose such reviews

The strongly worded letter referred to the examination of Reigate & Banstead Borough Council's local plan, where the inspector's report stated that "some loss of green belt land to housing development will be necessary, in certain sustainable locations, to meet as far as is practicable the needs of the borough".
Boles wrote to Sir Michael Pitt to say he was "very troubled by the media coverage of the recent inspector’s report" and added he had been "disturbed by the Inspector's use of language".
The letter goes on to emphasise that "it has always been the case that a local authority could adjust a green belt boundary through a review of the local plan. 
"It must, however, always be transparently clear that it is the local authority itself which has chosen that path – and it is important that this is reflected in the drafting of inspectors’ reports".

"It must, however, always be transparently clear that it is the local authority itself which has chosen that path"

The letter added that secretary of state Eric Pickles could intervene in local plans if an inspector has recommended a green belt review that is not supported by the local authority.
However, some in the industry have responded to the letter with concern, insisting that the inspector had done nothing wrong. 
A blog on plan-it-law.com expressed the opinion that the inspector "had carefully addressed NPPF (which does allow for green belt boundary alteration in exceptional circumstances) and given the focus on sustainable development, he found sufficient support in paragraphs 83-85 of NPPF plus the urgent need to boost housing supply to justify his recommendations".
The blogger added that "Mr Boles's letter will be the counter-argument now made by local authorities keen to retain their green belts as they now are… the odds are now stacked in favour of those local authorities".
The plan in question proposes building up to 1,400 homes on two green belt urban extensions. The council will meet on 10 April to discuss whether to adopt the draft plan.