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Cabinet reshuffle may spell the end for Sustainable Communities Plan

Countryside campaigners have predicted that the dismantling of John Prescott's super-department the ODPM will sound the death knell for the Sustainable Communities Plan.

One rural group has said it is hopeful that the radical overhaul of the department will lead to a rethinking of plans to build 475,000 new homes in south-east England.

A large proportion of these homes are planned for rural areas around London in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Essex.

It was one of the key policies of the ODPM, but some are predicting that Ruth Kelly ( pictured), the new minister in charge of housing, will quietly drop it.

Nick Schoon, communications director of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: 'Mr Prescott has been something of a mixed blessing for the cause of the environment and the countryside.

'It certainly hasn't been all bad, and there has been real enthusiasm for urban regeneration, which is great.

'On the other hand, the story with planning reforms and transport - which he had in his early days - has not been happy.

'There are real, legitimate concerns about the loss of countryside and we are hopeful of better things in the future,' he added.

by Ed Dorrell

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