Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, today revealed that the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, intends to overrule local democracy and take the decision about whether to build 10,000 houses on Green Belt land West of Stevenage out of the hands of local Councillors ? even though Hertfordshire County Council has proposed to build the extra houses on brown field sites in accord with the government?s own proclaimed policy.
Peter Lilley said:
“When I originally challenged John Prescott to justify his decision to approve giving the go ahead to build on Green Belt land his only justification was that he was respecting “local democracy? – because the proposal originally came from the Lab/Lib majority on the County Council. Yet now that the Council has changed hands and developed an alternative strategy for housing development in the County he plans to take the decision out of their hands and those of the North Herts District Council which also wants to defend the Green Belt. His officials have told me that he plans to take the exceptional step of calling the plan in to be determined by a Planning Inspector and ultimately by himself. This is a gross betrayal of local democracy and overrides the clearly expressed wishes of the electors of North Hertfordshire.
“Prescott?s decision is all the more amazing given that the County Council has followed his new procedures to the letter and established that there are alternative sites on brown (that is previously developed land) to meet the government housing targets at least up to 2016. His announcement shows that the government has only been paying lip service to the need to protect the Green Belt. He is really quite content to concrete over the Home Counties.
“There are clear party political reasons behind this decision. John Prescott has bowed to pressure from local Labour councillors who want to expand Stevenage. I shall challenge ministers on this issue at the first available opportunity in the new session of Parliament.?