Councils 'prepare to release 9,000 acres of green belt'

A survey claiming that English councils are preparing to give up 9,000 acres of green belt land for development is among the stories in today's newspaper round-up.

The Sunday Telegraph claims that 42 local authorities have "firm plans" to release a total of 9,000 acres of green belt but add just 1,700 acres. The article says despite the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) stating that green belt land should be protected, the government has encouraged councils to review green belt boundaries to help them meet housing demand.

The coalition wind farms row refuses to blow over. Both the Sunday Times (subscription only) and Daily Telegraph report that Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat energy secretary, has taken legal advice over stripping his Conservative deputy John Hayes of his powers. According to both papers, Davey has said he consulted lawyers about whether the energy minister's public opposition to wind farms would leave the Department for Energy and Climate Change vulnerable to judicial reviews challenging their decisions.

The Times (subscription only) today also reveals that Davey is preparing to approve a massive wind farm on Hayes’ doorstep. The article states that Davey is about to grant permission for a 54 megawatt project at Heckington Fen, Lincolnshire, less than three miles from Hayes’ constituency. The new wind farm, to be built by developer Ecotricity, would comprise 22 80m-high turbines. Ecotricity told The Times it was confident of getting the green light for the scheme.

The national housing and regeneration quango is about to seize control of the sale of public land owned by government departments to speed up the pace of disposal, according to today’s Financial Times (subscription only). It says the chancellor George Osborne will announce in next month’s Autumn Statement that all departments will be forced to cede control of their properties and land to the Homes & Communities Agency. This would allow tens of thousands of new homes to be built on the land more quickly, the paper says.

In other efforts to boost economic growth, the British Chambers of Commerce has called for urgent action from the government to kickstart major transport projects, both the Guardian and The Times (subscription only) report today. The business lobbying group claims that eight out of 13 key transport projects identified by businesses before the coalition came into power in 2010 have been cancelled, suspended or delayed. Calling for "bold action" from the government, it says only three of the major schemes are being built or have a firm start date.

The airport expansion debate rumbles on. The Times (subscription only) today has a story stating that bosses of Heathrow are expected to tell the Department for Transport’s commission into aviation capacity that the congested airport needs just one more runway to remain an international hub. The commission will be chaired by Sir Howard Davies and is due to produce a final report on UK aviation capacity in the summer of 2015.

A report by the IPPR North think- tank will argue that the north of England needs devolved powers to boost economic growth, including control over welfare, housing and transport spending, says the Observer. According to the newspaper, the report, to be published on Friday, will argue that the north needs to compete with London and Scotland, both of which enjoy devolved powers and are loudly championed by Alex Salmond and Boris Johnson respectively.


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