The statement came from a letter to Anna Soubry, a Conservative health minister, who wrote to his department warning that housing developments are being built on the Green Belt despite repeated assurances from David Cameron it will be protected.
Minister Nick Boles underlined protections for the Green Belt but was unable to guarantee it will be safe in and around Mrs Soubry's constituency.
Nick Boles said “Given a two million increase in our population over the last ten years and historic under-provision of housing we have to be realistic that not all the housing that we as a country need can be on brownfield land," he said. "In some places, this may mean building on low quality, environmentally uninteresting fields. In exceptional circumstances, it may involve a Green Belt review.
Councils are in charge of their Green Belt and the boundaries of protected areas will only be changed in exceptional circumstances.”
Boles went onto say “Planning guidelines in favour of sustainable development would not automatically override Green Belt protection and a council's efforts to fight the housing will not necessarily fail.”
At the start of the year, I received a letter from Nick Boles via a Planning Directorate, Department for Communities and Local Government in reference to Birmingham City Council’s proposals to build 10,000 houses and 50 hectares of industrial units on the Sutton Coldfield green belt.
The Planning Directorate said "The Government has made clear that planning should encourage the effective use of land, including ’brownfield’ land that is not high environmental value. The majority of all new homes – 76% of those completed in 2010 – were built on ‘brownfield land."
We continue to protect valuable areas very strongly. National policy expects great weight to be given to conserving landscapes and scenic beauty in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. These areas, together with National Parks and the Broads, have the highest status of protection in the planning system in relation to landscape and scenic beauty."
The Planning Directorate also went on to say: "We have made clear that inappropriate development should not be approved in the Green Belt except in very special circumstances, and that Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances.
The direct, and cumulative, impacts of development on infrastructure and local services, like schools and hospitals, are capable of being material considerations in determining the appropriateness of development. It is for each authority to assess whether adequate infrastructure exists or can be created to support development. And national planning policy makes clear that new development should be directed to areas with the lowest probability of flooding."
"The government is not setting out any target, or plan, of what might need to happen over the next 20 or 30 years. There is no policy on the amount of additional land that needs to be developed, and the government does not set top-down housing targets." Planning Directorate, Department for Communities and Local Government.
I will conclude this article with a quote from a campaigner against urban sprawl, Andrew Lainton “Boles seems to miss the key lynchpin of Green Belt policy, it is a policy of urban containment not of landscape protection, and as such 'its 'environmental value' is not material to whether Green Belt should be maintained as Green Belt, all that matters to this is whether the policy of urban containment should be relaxed, and if so whether the sites in question are of value to green belt purposes. He even gets the test wrong, for plan led release its 'very special circumstances' not 'exceptional circumstances'.