Summary of CPRE comments on the Chester Green Belt Study, April 2012
CPRE has recently reviewed the Chester Green Belt study, which will be used as evidence to decide whether to remove land from the Green Belt to allow it to be developed. We have a number of concerns with the study, and in particular, we conclude that the criteria selected, in combination with the traffic-light scoring system it uses, are not fit for purpose. We summarise our concerns below, and a copy of our detailed comments can be found at the end of the article, as well as at www.cpre.org.uk. We have also issued an advice note for members who wish to take action which can be downloaded via the link at the bottom of the page.
Public participation: public participation in the study came too late in the process to have a significant impact, and in practice was very limited. Greater input from people who know the areas concerned at an earlier stage could have made the methodology, assessments and findings significantly more robust.
Appropriateness and timing within the Local Plan process: a lot of other evidence should have been in place before the Council even considered releasing Green Belt land, including: up-to-date forecasts of economic growth and job creation; household projections related to the job creation forecasts and to environmental capacity; and assessments of the capacity of brownfield and other land to accommodate growth across the whole of the Borough. The focus on growing Chester in isolation is inappropriate and does not constitute the ‘exceptional circumstances’ required to change Green Belt boundaries.
Green Belt openness and purposes: the study approach, of splitting the five purposes of including land in the Green Belt up and only addressing them individually, is fragmentary when the fundamental issue about the Green Belt is its integrity and openness as a whole. The purpose of diving urban regeneration has not yet been assessed because some of the evidence we refer to above is not yet in place, rendering the study incomplete.
Traffic light assessment: the parcels of Green Belt land studied are assessed against specific criteria and then given a red, amber or green score. A red score is supposed to indicate that the land has a “negative impact on maintaining the Green Belt”. We believe that this is a wholly inaccurate description of any of the land assessed. Different purposes are assessed using different numbers of criteria. It is entirely unclear how the results of the assessment will be used to inform a decision on whether or not to remove land from the Green Belt, eg whether one green score is sufficient to merit retention, or one red score sufficient to merit removal.
Criteria: The criteria used to assess whether the parcels of land are contributing to the purposes of including land in the Green Belt are poorly defined and fail to properly describe whether or how land is contributing to Green belt purposes.
Anomalies and omissions: there are a number of anomalies and omissions from the study.
Take action: respond to the Green Belt Study! Download our advice note below: