Planning in the media

Planners are more than aware that the green belt has an almost mystical status in some parts of the country and any attempt to rethink it will attract opprobrium.

Natural England's move to review the policy to see whether it is fit for the 21st century was denounced by The Daily Mail as a "mad theory that more houses should be built on the green belt", in spite of the agency's call for a mature debate. "This was as good as being served with a compulsory purchase order," said the paper. "Creatures of the wild, vacate your hovels and head for the last fragments of rural England before the steamrollers crush you and your little ones."

The catastrophic decline in allotments, estimated at 9,400 a year, was of concern for The Independent's Victoria Summerley, who has been on the waiting list for one for some time. She is not alone, as the number of people waiting for an allotment has more than doubled since 1970. "I am 263rd in the queue for the allotments just around the corner. By the time they get around to my application, I'm likely to need a plot in the cemetery opposite." And this in a nation brought up on The Good Life.

Wind turbines have provoked sharply contrasting views across the media. Christopher Booker in The Sunday Telegraph was annoyed by the drive for such developments, arguing that "subsidised wind power is an expensive way to generate only pitifully small amounts of electricity and the carbon emissions it saves are derisory". Booker was dismayed by the "EU-imposed target" for ten per cent of the country's energy to come from renewable sources. "So locked is our government into the vain dream of meeting its EU target that it is prepared to bend normal planning rules and flout local democracy in every direction to force through as many schemes as it can," he said. "But people are at last waking up to the fact that wind power has become one of the most lucrative confidence tricks of our age." Michael McCarthy in The Independent predicted that offshore wind power is likely to be "the main generating source" in the country's renewable energy sector within the next decade. One of its main advantages is that "it is much less likely to get caught up in the planning process before construction, as there is no one living nearby to object", he said. The onshore capacity held up in the system is about four times greater than that installed, he reported.

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