REAL ESTATE - The Church of England is to sell off “greenbelt” land for the development of a 240-acre business park if a regional development agency approves a proposed regeneration scheme.

Inspectors will next month advise on the project, which the agency claims will create between 5,000-10,000 new jobs over the next five to 10 years.

The land, near Fellgate, in the north of England, is owned by the Church, which says it plans sell in the interests of regional regeneration. The development agency claims the business park is necessary “to help achieve a strong and prosperous economy” in the region.

Steve Jenkins, a spokesman for the Church, said: “We’ll have to see how it goes. It’s up to the regional development agency whether it wants to go ahead with the plan. If it does, and if the plan creates employment and regeneration, then yes, we’ll back it.”

He dismissed criticism that the sale of greenbelt land for development would conflict with statements recently made by a high-ranking bishop attacking irresponsible environmental practice.

“When the Bishop of London talked about ‘walking more lightly upon the earth’, he was talking about our use of natural resources – not about specific bits of greenbelt land,” Jenkins said.

In an interview last month with the BBC, the bishop, Richard Chartres, clearly linked concepts of environmental irresponsibility and sin.