Joy Morrissey has denounced Labour’s plans to re-designate Greenbelt land in a bid to boost housebuilding and economic growth as ‘an extraordinary attack’ that could see a U-turn on the rejection of Marlow Film Studios

The Beaconsfield MP was one of just two Conservative candidates to hang on to their Buckinghamshire seats in last week’s general election – indicating as early as Friday morning (July 5) her intention to “be a lone voice” in parliament, “taking on” Keir Starmer’s party on policies like VAT on private schools and the Greenbelt.

And she hasn’t had to wait long for an opportunity to don her opposition hat – with new chancellor Rachel Reeves providing plenty of ammunition for a Greenbelt-slanted attack in her first speech in the role on Monday, July 8.

Ms Reeves said the Labour government would overhaul planning rules to build more homes and critical infrastructure in the country to get Britain out of the financial “mess” left by 14 years under the Conservatives.

While an updated draft of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is not expected before the end of July, the chancellor said redesignation of Greenbelt land in Buckinghamshire to ‘grey belt’ could be on the cards to facilitate a speedier planning and development process.

Rachel Reeves speaking at the Treasury on Monday (Image: PA)

Ms Morrissey said the speech was “an expected but extraordinary attack on the Greenbelt in South Bucks” which “threatens our community and environment” and could even mean a U-turn on Buckinghamshire Council’s rejection of Marlow Film Studios in the spring.

Plans to build a multi-million-pound film studio on Greenbelt land near the A404 in Little Marlow were refused in May following a mammoth six-hour debate weighing the project's supposed economic benefits – 4,000 new jobs and billions injected into the local economy – against its environmental harms.

Councillors said it was a “very difficult decision” but ultimately concluded that there was insufficient evidence to justify Marlow Film Studios being built on land intended to prevent urban sprawl, also citing the “severe impact” of new commuters on local roads and the “detrimental visual, noise and traffic impact” on residents.

Joy Morrissey with Save Marlow's Greenbelt campaigners (Image: Joy Morrissey)

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Ms Morrissey, who was staunchly opposed to the film studio plans, said she was prepared to “fight the government every inch of the way to save our Greenbelt”, accusing them of “running roughshod over local opinion already”.

Interestingly, planning officer John Fannon also said the film studio “frustrated the delivery of much-needed housing”, putting it at odds with the “proper planning and development of the area” – begging the question of whether the Greenbelt land on the southern side of Marlow Road will be developed one way or another, depending on the prioritisation of infrastructure or housing.

Sam Kershaw, co-chair of local campaign group Save Marlow’s Greenbelt, said he thought Labour’s Greenbelt reforms were “intended to encourage affordable housebuilding, not unnecessary film studios”.

CGI depiction of Marlow Film Studios (Image: Marlow Film Studios)

Regardless of the result, it seems that the new government is wasting no time in rolling up its sleeves and getting to work – perhaps living up to veteran broadcaster Andrew Neil’s hope that Starmer would have the “gumption and vigour” to revisit the film studio proposal once in power. 

In her speech on Monday, the first female chancellor also nodded to local doubts over development on the Greenbelt – urging those concerned to “acknowledge that trade-offs always exist”.

She said: “Any development may have environmental consequences, place pressure on services and rouse voices of local opposition, but we will not succumb to a status quo which responds to the existence of trade-offs by always saying ‘no’.”

A spokesperson for Marlow Film Studios said they would not comment on the planning application’s future “until next steps are agreed and announced”.