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21

MP Warns Of Enviroment

MP warns of housing threat to environment

PLANNING powers are being taken out of the hands of local authorities and given to non-elected regional bodies, Mole Valley's MP has warned.

Sir Paul Beresford said the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act is transferring decisions over development issues from Surrey County Council to the South East England Regional Assembly (SEERA).

He is concerned that this will result in Mole Valley becoming overloaded with housing.

"We're under real threat now because it means decisions are going to happen at the behest of this non-elected body based in Milton Keynes," he said. "They will be allocating housing right across the south-east area.

"We're already overloaded and they will load us with even more."

Sir Paul also raised fears that Surrey would be allocated a minimum number of new properties which would have to be built.

He said: "Most people move to Surrey because they like the Green Belt and the open spaces, but these will go. The district council will have a say on individual cases but if appealed by the developer, it is likely to go against the council because of the way it is structured."

The Environment Agency has warned that the construction of 800,000 new homes in the south east could set off an "environmental timebomb".

This is the amount of new homes the Government wants to see built.

In its State of the Environment 2004 report, it calls on planners to take the environment into consideration at the planning stage.

It also stresses the need to keep flood plains free from development and to build extra waste, sewage and water plants to cope with a growing demand for housing, energy and other resources.

Howard Davidson, director for the southern region of the Environment Agency, said: "This is the only way that the environmental impact of the building of 800,000 new homes can be managed."

The dangers of climate change caused by new developments, resulting in violent storms, rising sea levels and droughts were also highlighted in the report.

"The development of a 25 per cent increase in housing will exacerbate all of these threats to the environment," it said.

Last week Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott issued a consultation on proposals to strengthen links between housing and planning strategies at regional level.

The 12-week consultation outlines plans to give assemblies, including the SEERA, responsibility for producing housing strategies for local housing needs and the use of funds for investment.

The consultation also seeks views on plans for a new independent unit, which would provide the regions with advice to inform local decisions on housing needs.