12 days to go: Blair - Destroyer-in-chief of our green fields

Michael Howard has promised to restore the integrity of England's greenbelt land, and put rural and urban communities back in charge of their local development agenda. The Conservative Leader made the pledge during an election campaign visit to Milton Keynes, where Labour's Deputy Premier John Prescott is planning to impose 70,000 new homes, without any serious planning, proper funding, or consultation with local people.

Addressing cheering crowds in the town's shopping centre, Mr Howard declared: "Everywhere I go, people say they are tired of Tony Blair, because he promises things but doesn't deliver. But here in Milton Keynes he's done something even worse. He's delivered something without promising it…a massive blow to this area. They are imposing 70,000 new homes without any serious planning, without proper funding and without any consultation with you, the local people."

Although he acknowledged that the booming town should grow, Mr Howard condemned Labour's arrogance, attacked the town's two Labour MPs for not speaking up against the development programme, and stressed that the expansion should be gradual to maintain quality of life and ensure that infrastructure and services grow to meet the demands of a larger population.

And offering "a better approach", he said the Conservatives would give local communities a much bigger say on planning matters, would scrap Labour's Whitehall-controlled regional planning bureaucracies, would abolish regional control of housing numbers, and take action to ensure that protection of the environment starts at the grassroots.

Mr Howard said: "We all love and value our green space but it's under pressure as never before. It sometimes seems that every field, every meadow and every village is threatened with some building proposal or other. That's why we have planning laws. That's why we have protection of agricultural land. That's why we have the greenbelt."

Pointing out that Conservatives have always supported these measures, and often sought to strengthen them, Mr Howard protested: "The Blair government has stopped being the protector-in-chief of our green fields, and instead has become the destroyer-in-chief of our green fields.

"Labour has taken away the right of local communities to block developments that ruin their environment, weakened protection for already threatened farmland, and imposed massive house building programmes on Green Belt and green fields that will destroy the character of many quiet rural areas forever."

Mr Howard said plans to develop big new housing areas in the south east affected town dwellers as well as rural communities. "They take no account of the effect on the environment for the people who already live in these areas and who are having the quality of their lives ruined. So watch out. If Mr Blair wins a third term, many areas will be concreted over and ruined."


story from: www.conservatives.com