Christopher Hope, Senior Political Correspondent
5:48PM BST 20 Aug 2012
The comments would appear to scotch suggestions that Chancellor George Osborne wants to relax the limits on building on the green belt to boost the economy.
Earlier this year ministers published a watered down version of the new National Planning Policy Framework, after a vigorous campaign from the National Trust, supported by The Daily Telegraph’s Hands Off Our Land campaign.
However in recent weeks there has been a series of report suggesting that Mr Osborne wants to reopen the debate by encouraging a new wave of house building.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman emphasised it was a commitment in the Coalition Agreement not to interfere with the green belt. He said: “We set out the position on the green belt in the national planning policy framework.
“The coalition agreement commits the Government to safeguarding the green belt - that policy framework sets that out very clearly. The policy is as set out in that policy framework.”
Eric Pickles, the Communities secretary, is among a number of ministerial opponents of any developments on the green belt, which was brought in during the 1930s to prevent urban sprawl from new housing developments.
Whitehall sources have insisted that rather than relaxing planning rules, the Treasury is keen on making it easier for big infrastructure schemes to get off the ground.
Official figures show that local authorities have granted planning permission for more than 480,000 building plots in recent years.
But work is only progressing on 136,700 of them. Development has been shelved at more than 81,000 sites and suspended or delayed at 226,000. Mr Pickles has unveiled plans to help the schemes get up and running.
New proposals are expected in the autumn in an Economic Regeneration Bill which will also include plans to improve infrastructure and aviation capacity.