360,000 new homes for green belt land

Countryside campaigners have questioned the government’s housing targets after the number of homes being planned on green belt land in England has increased to more than 360,000.

As reported on in the Guardian, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has claimed that the number has risen from 81,000 in 2012 to 362,346 this year, claiming that the spread desecrates Britain’s natural environment.

According to the House of Commons library, the number of homes granted planning permission annually in green belt rose fivefold from 2,258 in 2009-10 to 11,977 in 2014-15, while the net loss of green belt between 2004 and 2014-15 amounted to 41,570 hectares (103,000 acres).

Among the new sites that could contain housing are open fields owned by Oxford colleges and sites close to the New Forest in Hampshire.

The government and house builders maintain that the release of green belt is essential to boosting the number of new homes, and that only a small fraction of the country will be urbanised if new houses are built on green belt land. The Conservative government raised the protection of the green belt as a prime policy within their manifesto commitment, but have also pledged to tackle the worsening housing crisis, presenting a tough balancing act for Prime Minister Theresa May and Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, both of whom represent constituencies containing large areas of green belt land.

Shaun Spiers, the chief executive of the CPRE, said: “The government faces a choice. It can either continue to set inflated and undeliverable targets that fail to increase building rates and force the release of green belt land and other countryside for development. Or it can set realistic targets and get the nation behind building the new homes we need.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government said of the CPRE figures: “These claims are based purely on projections in local plans, including those not yet adopted. This government is committed to protect the green belt. Only in exceptional circumstances may councils alter green belt boundaries, after consulting local people and submitting the revised local plan for examination.

“We’ve been absolutely clear that councils must prioritise development on brownfield land, and have announced plans to radically boost brownfield development and bring life back to abandoned sites.”

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid is expected to launch a new national housing policy in the coming weeks.