Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, described John Prescott?s decision to approve the building of thousands of houses in the Green Belt between Hitchin and Stevenage as indefensible, intolerable and inexcusable. He said it would not only destroy beautiful Green Belt land in Hertfordshire, but undermine the sanctity of the Green Belt everywhere and create a precedent for large scale housebuilding throughout southern England.

    He acknowledged that the Secretary of State?s decision on these matters is normally final, but promised to consult with the Campaign Against Stevenage Expansion and other groups to see whether any loopholes remained which could be used to try to overturn it.

    Peter Lilley said: “The danger of this decision is that it could lead to Hitchin and Stevenage gradually merging into each other. It is essential to provide green lungs between built up areas. Far from being redundant in the 21st century, the Green Belt will be crucial if we are to preserve a decent environment.

    “It is astonishing that the Secretary of State should have dismissed the urban capacity study carried out by the County Council which demonstrated that there are enough sites coming forward and available in future to make sacrificing Green Belt land unnecessary. To reject this study on the grounds that it had not been thoroughly examined amounts to a criticism of the whole public inquiry. The Inspector clearly should have examined the study thoroughly in order to decide whether it was valid or not rather than rejecting it out of hand.

    “I shall be consulting the Campaign Against Stevenage Expansion to see whether there are any conceivable steps we can take which would allow us to challenge this decision.?