Minister in 'nihilistic' outburst

Planning policy faces a revamp under the coalition government
Planning policy faces a revamp under the coalition government

By Phil Scullion

Planning minister Greg Clark has attacked rural campaigners’ "nihilistic" view on housing as the row over the localism bill becomes increasingly bad-tempered.

The junior minister hit out after comments from the National Trust that his new planning policies could result in "unchecked and damaging development".

He said that the National Trust and other charities were acting in a "selfish" manner and accused them of scaremongering.

'Last year was the lowest level of housebuilding since World War Two, which means the problem is getting worse and worse causing more misery for more people for as long as this isn't addressed.

"People do have an interest in the future - to not care shows a degree of nihilistic selfishness which is quite rare," he added.

However the National Trust is running a campaign in which it warns that the changes may leave the British countryside looking like the urban sprawl of Los Angeles.

A National Trust spokesman said that the government had put "short-term financial gain" ahead of genuine issues with the proposals.

He continued: "Our primary concern is what the government's reforms threaten to do to the everyday places in and around cities, towns and villages that are hugely valued by local communities."

"To say we have a nihilistic view on housing is odd. We have developed hundreds of homes ourselves and have existing permission to build hundreds more on land that we own."

The government says that new planning proposals will simplify the process and help boost Britain's economic growth.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England said: "Many of these proposed developments will have a lasting and detrimental effect on these areas."

"We believe that the pro-development stance the government is taking, alongside the scrapping of targets that steered development towards previously used sites, will undermine protection for the countryside."

This is the second ministerial attack on those who oppose new planning laws this month.

Bob Neill, a local government minister, criticised the National Trust and the CPRE for carrying out a "carefully choreographed smear campaign" and referred to them as "left-wingers", a phrase which left their executives bemused.

The charities were campaigning against his plans to encourage councils to generally allow building developments.


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