§ 10. Mr. Goodhew
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what new action he is proposing to take to protect the metropolitan green belt.
§ Mr. Rippon
No new action is required: it is already our policy to preserve an effective green belt around London.
§ Mr. Goodhew
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that there is grave concern in Hertfordshire at the erosion of the green belt by his action in allowing appeals against the advice of planning authorities and of his own inspectors? If there has to be some sacrifice of green belt for building houses, is it not better to have a planned policy than the present piecemeal approach?
§ Mr. Rippon
Green belt status has never imposed an absolute ban on development. I quite agree that every case must be very carefully considered. 1245 As my hon. Friend knows, I have suggested that we should look at the metropolitan green belt and consider whether parts of it—perhaps up to 2,000 acres—might be suitable for housing. But this is out of an approved total of 610,000 acres and a proposed 725,000 acres, so I do not think there is any question of an attack upon the principles of the green belt.
§ Mr. Spearing
While agreeing with the Minister that there may be marginal cases, particularly where the green belt is not green, may I ask whether he agrees that it is high time he took legislative powers, which were promised by his predecessor, to do something about the pressure on space in London caused by office blocks? Is he aware that a year ago there was 9 million square feet of empty office accommodation or space for which building permission had been given? Is it not time that he did something about this pressure on resources?