The number of homes planned for England’s Green Belt has risen by 50,000 in the past year to 275,000, according to new research
A report from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) says that 200,000 homes have been approved on greenfield sites since the introduction of planning reforms in March 2012 aimed, in part, at protecting the Green Belt.
The document Green Belt under Siege highlights how the Conservative 2015 election manifesto committed the government to preserve the Green Belt, with prime minister David Cameron describing it as ‘extremely precious’.
Yet last month communities and local government secretary Greg Clark approved a 1,500-home scheme between Gloucester and Cheltenham - one of the biggest developments on the Green Belt for a decade.
The CPRE also points to government consultation on proposed changes to planning policy in February which suggested amending policy to allow for small-scale sites in the Green Belt for starter homes.
Green Belt boundaries are being changed to accommodate housing ‘at the fastest rate for at least two decades’, the report adds, with 11 local authorities finalising boundary changes in the year to March 2015 to allow for development. It finds councils are using an ‘exceptional circumstances’ caveat in the National Planning Policy Framework to de-designate Green Belt land to accommodate housing.
’Councils are increasingly eroding the Green Belt to meet unrealistic and unsustainable housing targets’
‘Councils are increasingly eroding the Green Belt to meet unrealistic and unsustainable housing targets,’ said Paul Miner, planning campaign manager at CPRE. ‘The government is proposing to encourage further development in the Green Belt. Our Green Belt is invaluable in preventing urban sprawl and providing the countryside next door for 30 million people.’
He said stronger protection for the Green Belt was needed, ‘not just supportive words and empty promises’. He added: ‘To build the affordable homes young people and families need, the government should empower councils to prioritise the use of brownfield sites. Brownfield land is a self-renewing resource that can provide at least one million new homes.’
Green Belt under Siege - map
Figures compiled for the CPRE’s report from draft and adopted local plans suggest there is particular pressure in the Metropolitan area around London and the West Midlands Green Belt.
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said there were ‘no plans or policy to relax the strong protections that prevent inappropriate development on the Green Belt.
‘Ministers have repeatedly been clear that demand for housing alone will not justify changing Green Belt boundaries,’ he said. ‘Councils are already expected to prioritise development on brownfield sites with 90 per cent of brownfield sites expected to have planning permission by the end of this parliament.
‘It means that in 2014/15 just 0.02% of Green Belt was converted to residential use, and the Green Belt is actually 32,000 hectares bigger than it was in 1997.’
Comment: Kate Macintosh
The news that the number of houses planned for siting in England’s green belt has risen from 200,000 to 275,000 in 4 years shines a spotlight on the government’s shambolic absence of any housing policy worthy the name.
There is clearly no need to encroach on the green belt: when an estimated number in excess of 20,000 homes are left empty in London, some for as long as 10 years; when 45% of land with planning permission in Greater London is owned by those who have limited intention of developing the plots; when despite the number of plots with planning permission having doubled in London in the last decade, construction levels have remained flat.
Are any public transport links planned for these new areas of suburban sprawl? The fastest growing source of greenhouse and other harmful emissions is transport. Road congestion in UK has increased 17% while in the EU it has reduced 3%. No surprise that an estimated 60,000 early deaths per annum are caused by air pollution.