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War breaks out between planners and countryside campaigners

The Royal Town Planning Institute has hit back with fury at the Campaign to Protect Rural England's (CPRE) recent 'sensationalist' campaigning.

In an open letter, the institute's president, Ron Tate, attacked the countryside lobbyists for spreading fear about development in rural areas.

Tate said he was forced to act after the CPRE issued a report that won many national column inches, claiming there would be no countryside left in 30 years.

The letter claims that the 'Your countryside, Your choice' report - which looked at government policy on house building and development in the countryside - is 'scaremongering'.

'I can understand how spreading fear of development will help to boost your status as a campaigning organisation but it will do nothing to contribute to a much-needed and mature debate on housing, development and the countryside,' the letter says.

'CPRE have a track record as the voice of NIMBYism and your latest campaign aims to subvert any discussion about where new communities can be built.

'The report does make some useful points, which are unfortunately overshadowed by your vision of an England in 2035, a vision which merely reflects an anti-development bias.'

Tate added that 'in order to bring balance to the debate the report might have mentioned the following facts'. They are:

the Barker Report claims that only 7.1 per cent of land across England is urbanised;

if 120,000 houses were built per year in the South East alone, during the next 10 years this would account for an additional 0.75 per cent of the total land area of the South East (Barker, Chapter 1, para. 1.45);

in 2004, according to the ODPM figures used by the CPRE, 70 per cent of new dwellings were built on previously developed land;

development took place at an average of 40 dwellings per hectare - the target set for development by the CPRE; and

between 1997 and 2003 an area of Green Belt three and a half times the size of Southampton has been created, according to ODPM figures.

'The RTPI calls for a reasoned and just debate on the future of development across the UK and for CPRE to become a part of this process rather than continue to produce sensationalist headline-grabbing reports based on little real information,' he added.

by Ed Dorrell

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