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Councillors who attended a Westminster meeting of the Local Government Association last night said that their autho...
Councillors who attended a Westminster meeting of the Local Government Association last night said that their authorities would find it difficult to meet the government's targets for building new homes on brownfield land.

The Daily Telegraph (p19) reports that the mostly Tory councillors said they did not have enough redevelopment sites in their areas to meet environment secretary John Prescott's assertion that 60% of new homes be built on used land.

They also claimed that he had not given clear guidelines on greenbelt development and that he appeared to have overlooked the need for roads and other infrastructure for the new properties.

Mr Prescott declined to attend last night's meeting, but Nick Raynsford, the housing minister, offered to meet members after the 4 May elections.

Lord Hanningfield, leader of the LGA's Conservative group and leader of Essex CC, said: 'What about the extra facilities that will be needed, such as schools and hospitals?'

Maurice Hurrell, Tory leader on Chelmsford BC, said: 'We don't want to infringe the greenbelt, but what with the numbers we are being forced to take there is nowhere else to go.'

Meanwhile, The Independent (p2) reports that a 100-strong group of Labour MPs will today present a 'manifesto' on rural areas that will call for changes in planning laws to allow more building in the greenbelt.

The want sweeping reforms to allow a more flexible approach to affordable housing and economic development in the countryside. In a report to the government, the MPs, led by Peter Bradley, say presumption to refuse planning permission on agricultural land should be scrapped.

'Rural housing and rural enterprises are often easily stifled by an approach to planning based on a ritual presumption against development irrespective of its potential benefits to the community,' they say.

The MPs also claim to have the support of the Council for the Protection of Rural England and the Countryside Alliance in their plans to revive village communities.

The MPs, who represent rural seats, want Tony Blair to appoint a cabinet-ranking minister for rural affairs and to enhance the role of parish and town councils to bbost rural communities.

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