Philip Dunne raises concerns about proposals in the Shropshire Council plan for significant development on green belt land east of Bridgnorth and asks under what criteria the council has judged there to be exceptional circumstances to enable such green belt development to take place.
My hon. Friend is making a powerful speech. As he has identified, our constituencies are adjacent. On development on the green belt in the Shropshire Council area, there are proposals under the Shropshire Council plan for significant development on green belt immediately to the east of Bridgnorth, which is on the western extremity of the green belt coming out from the Birmingham metropolitan area.
Does my hon. Friend agree that, in order to sanction development on green belt, the local authority needs to be clear about the exceptional circumstances in which, under the planning guidance, green-belt development is allowed? Will he join me in pressing the Minister to provide some clue about how a council can demonstrate exceptional circumstances? What are the criteria by which that is judged? Without that, presumably, any such development would not proceed.
I am always grateful to my right hon. Friend for his interventions—he has huge experience, having been a Member of Parliament representing Ludlow and that beautiful other part of Shropshire for 14 years. Bridgnorth, for which he is the Member of Parliament, has taken quite a lot of housing in recent years. Again, I think Bridgnorth residents have been very good: they have not been nimbys; they have just said that the housing needs to be sustainable and proportionate. The exceptional circumstances for the green belt are very narrow—they have to be exceptional. I think that test is right, but whether Shropshire Council has met it is a matter for others, such as my right hon. Friend and the Minister. In my constituency, my view is that the council has not met that test to date. Whether in Bridgnorth, Shifnal, Albrighton, Tong, Shawbirch or Apley, we should avoid at all times building on farmland and greenfield sites.