THE Prime Minister assured the BBC presenter Andrew Marr in October 2011 that he would no more put his local countryside at risk than he would put his own family at risk and that while more houses needed to be built, this would be possible without jeopardising the greenbelt or areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB).
Then on the BBC Countryfile programme in January 2012 he promised that sprawling housing estates would not be “plonked” on the edge of villages against the opposition of local people under the Government's new planning reforms, and suggested that the new planning rules fast-tracking planning decisions would be limited to schemes of fewer than 30 homes to avoid creating more urban sprawl.
While there would be a presumption in favour of sustainable development there would be no change to the protections afforded to sensitive areas such as the green belt and AONBs.
Fast forward to 2014. There is currently a proposal to build 43 houses on the Rothwell Road playing fields in Malvern Wells, which lie within the Malvern Hills AONB.
Why is consideration being given to this proposal when there is sizeable local opposition to the development, when Malvern Hills District Council's AONB officer has recommended refusal of the proposal and when it apparently goes against the Government's own intentions regarding the protection of AONBs and rural sustainable development as outlined above?
Has government planning policy changed? Does AONB status offer any meaningful protection against unsustainable planning development?
Dr Louise Gibson