Countryside under threat

DRAFT plans for development in the East of England are a "dagger pointed at the heart of our countryside", it has been claimed.The warning came as the public has just a week left to register their views on the proposals.

DRAFT plans for development in the East of England are a "dagger pointed at the heart of our countryside", it has been claimed.

The warning came as the public has just a week left to register their views on the proposals.

The plans, proposing that 478,000 new homes should be built by 2021, were drawn up by the East of England Regional Assembly – which later suspended its support for the blueprint after the Government refused to pledge money for infrastructure improvements.

Industrial and commercial growth creating 201,000 new jobs over the same period is also envisaged under the plans, together with 63 new road schemes. It also includes 123,400 new homes in Essex and 58,600 in Suffolk.

Barry Porter, chairman of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England's regional committee, said independent experts had demonstrated the sheer volume of development would be intrinsically damaging to the local environment and would create a "green disaster".

He added: "This draft plan is a dagger pointed at the heart of our countryside and it is provoking massive public concern.

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"It threatens to destroy our environment and quality of life, while doing little to meet the region's real development needs."

Mr Porter said the only way to stop the draft plans being approved by the Government was for as many people as possible to speak out.

"We call on everyone to let the regional assembly and the Government know how they feel. Your views matter – make them count before it is too late," he added.

But Alan Moore, head of regional planning and transport for the East of England Regional Assembly, said: "The plan does seek not to just protect, but to enhance the countryside. There are a lot of policies aimed at that.

"Many people are unaware of those policies or are ignoring them in their comments. They do not either believe them or are not reading them.

Mr Moore added 60% of the development was taking place on urban, brownfield land.

Richard Ward, director of the Suffolk Preservation Society, said if approved, the draft plans would result in the loss of protected landscape areas, creating the need for new road systems.

"This is just one mass of suburban building exploitation being dumped on Suffolk without evidence based research and joined up thinking," he added.

"Now is the time for the people of this region to strongly voice their concerns and say what are the real needs for their area.

"Otherwise it will be changed beyond recognition and we will end up with a county we do not recognise or want to live in."