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Housebuilder calls for green-belt development reform

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The chief executive of housebuilder Persimmon has called for a relaxation of rules on developing green-belt land as the company announced increased sales and profits

Persimmon’s chief executive Jeff Fairburn’s comments follow RIBA’s advice to ministers last month arguing that construction on parts of the green belt with a ‘low or negligible environmental and amenity value’ would be one potential solution to the nation’s housing crisis.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Fairburn said the company was happy to develop brownfield sites, but that the green belt could not be sacrosanct in areas where no alternative sites were available.

‘There are a number of cities around the country where they are very constrained (by green belt land),’ he said.

‘There is a requirement for those places to grow, there are people that want to buy houses there and work there and in some locations it is very constraining.

‘We’ll build on brownfield sites or greenfield sites - whatever is presented to us, so long as it’s viable.

‘But if there are no other sites available and Green Belt is the only option, then that’s what we need to look at.’

RIBA’s call for green-belt reform came in its Building a Better Britain: A Vision for the Next Government action plan.

However new housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis subsequently responded that the government had ‘absolutely no plans’ to change green-belt policy in its remaining months in office.

Persimmon’s half-year figures, released today, show a 57 per cent increase in pre-tax profit, at £212million against 2013’s £135.3million.

The firm said it had seen a 26 per cent increase in new homes delivered over the 12 months to June 30, and had added 708 hectares to its strategic land portfolio during the first half of this calendar year.

According to the figures, the firm completed the sale of 6,408 new homes during the first six months of 2014, up 28 per cent on the same period in 2013.

Persimmon said its strategic land bank stood at 6,839 hectares at the end of June, and that it was ‘actively building’ on all sites where we it had an implementable detailed planning consent.

Legal completions for the first six months of 2014 increased by 28 per cent to 6,408 homes, compared with 5,022 for the same period in 2013.

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