Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Following pressure from Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, Government officials met officers from local planning authorities to discuss ways of stopping speculative sales of parcels of Green Belt land.

    Peter Lilley said: “I am pleased that, following pressure which I and colleagues put on the government, it is now considering a number of proposals to discourage the speculative sale of parcels of Green Belt land which can blight the landscape. This problem has caused problems. In particular the government is now exploring the idea of introducing a cooling off period before such sales become binding. The seller of such land would be obliged to advise purchasers of the cooling off period – and to notify the local planning authority of the proposed sale. Such a cooling off period would enable local planning authorities to put in place any restrictions they think appropriate and to ensure that the proposed buyer was aware of the true development status of the land.

    “At present a local authority can prohibit the subdivision of land by fencing, and the building of sheds or installation of caravans – by using what is called an Article 4 Direction. But there are two problems with this. It cannot be applied retrospectively after subdivision has taken place and it requires approval by the Government Regional Office which can take time. Moreover, each individual plot owner has to be notified – and there can be hundreds.

    So I am glad that the government has agreed to consider my suggestion that Article 4 directions withdrawing permitted development rights to subdivide fields should be served on site rather than in a newspaper to bring them into effect more quickly.”