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OUTRAGE OVER PROPOSALS TO RELAX LAWS SAVING GREEN BELT FROM DEVELOPERS

PROPOSALS TO relax the laws protecting greenbelt land around towns and cities from development were condemned by MPs and countryside campaigners yesterday.    

The Royal Town Planning Institute said cities should be able to expand into greenbelt land to ease the housing crisis. Michael Haslam, the institute's president, said there were tensions between greenbelt policy and the Government 's desire to see more sustainable housing.    

He warned that if existing cities weren't allowed to expand outwards, developers would have to leap-frog over greenbelt land and expand into the next villages and market towns. Mr Haslam said on BBC radio: "We are trying to find sites on the edge of towns rather than leap-frogging into the open countryside."     Green belts were introduced in the Forties to protect the countryside from urban sprawl. They are under pressure for development because, if new houses are not built on greenbelt land, they are likely to be built in villages and small towns.    

Henry Oliver, head of planning at the Council for the Protection of Rural England, said planners should look instead at developing brownfield sites. "There is a huge amount of land, both brownfield and greenfield, available either in plans or with planning permission, even in the South-east of England," he said.     "One important thing about green belts is their semi- permanence. People have confidence in them. Developers know the rules, and we undermine that at our peril."     Opposition parties also condemned the institute's proposals. Geoffrey Clifton- Brown, the Tory planning spokesman, said: "The greenbelt policy has been one of the great success stories of this country and it is vital that all other options are investigated thoroughly, including releasing brownfield land. If all the brownfield land available within the M25 was released, it would serve the housing demand for London for the next 10 years."    

Adrian Sanders, the Liberal Democrat planning spokesman, warned that the proposals would undermine the purpose of greenbelt land, and make it harder to limit development in the countryside.

BYLINE: Marie Woolf Chief Political Correspondent

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Greenbelt Restrictions RelaxedSome 100 million pyong (4,258 square
kilometers) of land in seven major cities will be released from greenbelt restrictions on a gradual basis from as early as next year.

The plan for releasing land controlled by greenbelt restrictions could be finalized Sept. 4 in a cabinet meeting and could bring about huge economic effects to a country still struggling from a possible recession.

   However, civic environmental organizations are already protesting the initiative to develop greenbelt land, demanding that the government stick with its promise to protect greenery.

   The proposal for lifting greenbelt restrictions was made by the government- run Korea Research Institute for Human Settlement (KRIHS) which has been contracted to conduct related research.

   Under the proposal, the government is to release some 100 million pyong of land, which represents 7.8 percent of 1.3 billion pyong of greenbelt properties, in cities like Taejon and Taegu, in additional to the Seoul metropolitan area, over a two-to-three-year period.

   This will basically affect land in which more than 100 households in the metropolitan district, 50 in Pusan and 30 in other cities are currently making their home.

   The largest blocks of land to be excluded from greenbelt restrictions will be around the Seoul metropolitan district with 34 million pyong, followed by Kwangju with 14.4 million pyong and Pusan with 12.7 million pyong.

    It remains to be seen what will happen since we do have to go through with the cabinet meeting as well as public hearings before a final decision is made,' ' said one official of the Ministry of Construction and Transportation.

   The lifting of restrictions will affect a total of 120,000 households, or 83.9 percent of all homes which are restricted from rebuilding or expanding their properties under the greenbelt law.

    What the lifting of greenbelt restrictions will do is allow those affected to rebuild their homes and exercise their rights over their properties,'' one KRIHS researcher said.

   In addition to expanding individual homes, owners and the government will be able to construct schools, warehouses and medical facilities although land which is classified as farmland will not be included.

   While the lifting of the restriction will certainly be welcomed by those affected _ greenbelt land fetches some of the lowest prices in the market, obviously because they are banned from developing their properties _ environment groups and nearby residents are all protesting the move.

    It is like completing lifting regulations for protecting greenbelt land and runs counter to the government basic plan for protecting greenery and the natural environment,'' said one official of the Korea Federation for Environmental Protection.

   On the other hand, the government is insisting that if the initiative is to be realized, strict measures will be implemented to ensure that there is no speculative transfer of properties.

    We will introduce effective mechanisms to make sure that people do not profit from the development of their properties. Most of the development will be for public welfare, such as the construction of schools and hospitals,'' one MOCT official said.

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