An MP from Reading has criticised proposed changes to planning laws by the government that could see more homes built on green belt land.
The Conservative government under Prime Minister Liz Truss is considering relaxing laws around building on the green belt and allowing extensions to homes to come under permitted development rights, meaning they would no longer need planning permission.
The proposals are being floated by Simon Clarke (Conservative, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland), the secretary of state for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
Although the proposals have not been finalised yet, Matt Rodda, the Labour MP for Reading East, has argued they would lead to an increase in ‘ugly and cramped developments’ both in the town and on its outskirts.
Mr Rodda said: “The Government is planning a wave of changes to planning which could allow unsuitable development in the countryside and increase the number of ugly and cramped developments in towns and villages by allowing far more development.
“The first move risks more sprawling development on the edge of towns and cities, damaging vital green space, creating more traffic in suburban areas and increasing pressure on local public services.
“The second proposal could increase the number of bedsits in busy historic streets, such as in Reading town centre and near Reading University.
“This problem is also getting worse across our area, including in Earley, Caversham and Emmer Green and in South Reading.”
Mr Rodda made the comments in a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament.
He also referred to a plan by Gladman Homes in 2018, which would’ve seen 245 homes built on Bryant’s Farm.
The plan was refused by South Oxfordshire District Council and rejected on appeal.
Mr Rodda raised fears similar developments could see Emmer Green linked to Sonning Common.
He said: “In our area we have a specific problem with speculative developers, and I’ll mention one case that indicates just how appalling this can be.
“On one site on the edge of Emmer Green, a small village now part of Reading, a speculative developer wanted to build a large number of executive homes.
“That would have started to join up Reading with the neighbouring south Oxfordshire village of Sonning Common, which is completely against the wider thrust of planning policy and the importance of maintaining separate settlements.
“It was an unsuitable, unsustainable site that would have led to a large amount of extra traffic in both directions, which no residents in the area wanted. I and neighbouring MPs and parish councils campaigned against it, and we were successful.
“However, I am concerned that the Government’s proposals could unleash a wave of similar applications on the outskirts of existing towns and cities in my constituency and neighbouring parts of southern England.”