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SoS may intervene if inspectors recommend green belt review not supported by the local authority, says Boles

The secretary of state (SoS) will consider exercising his statutory powers of intervention in Local Plans before they are adopted in circumstances where a planning inspector has recommended a green belt review and this is not supported by the local planning authority, Planning Minister Nick Boles has said.

Boles has written a letter to all planning inspectors to "restate very clearly" the UK government’s view of green belt policy and Local Plan examinations (2-page / 44KB PDF).  The letter follows an inspector's recommendation last month that Reigate and Banstead Council should recognise in its Local Plan that loss of green belt land would be necessary to meet the housing needs of the borough.

Boles said in the letter that he was "very troubled" by the media coverage of the report. "On reading the report, I was disturbed by the inspector's use of language, which invited misinterpretation of government policy and misunderstanding about the local authority's role in drawing up all of the policies in the draft plan," he said.

Boles noted that it has "always been the case" that a local authority can adjust a green belt boundary through a Local Plan review. However, he said that it must "always be transparently clear" that it is the local authority itself which has chosen that path. "And it is important that this is reflected in the drafting of inspectors’ reports," he added.

Where an inspector recommends a green belt review that is not supported by the local planning authority, the SoS may consider intervening before the Local Plan is adopted, Boles said. Inspectors need to "ensure that they understand the need to choose their words carefully and reflect government policy very clearly in all future reports," he added.

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