New homes ‘eroding’ green belt

275,000 houses are now planned for England’s Green Belt, despite government pledges to protect the countryside, a report says.

Research from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) shows that 275,000 houses are now planned for England’s Green Belt, an increase of 50,000 on last year and nearly 200,000 more than when the Government introduced its planning reforms back in March 2012.

CPRE’s Green Belt Under Siege report illustrates that Green Belt boundaries are being changed to accommodate housing at the fastest rate for two decades. In the year to 2015, 11 local authorities finalised boundary changes to accommodate development. The 275,000 houses now planned are an increase of 25 per cent on 2015, and almost double the 147,000 houses outlined for Green Belt in Labour’s 2009 regional plans. There is particular pressure in the Metropolitan and West Midlands Green Belt.

Paul Miner, planning campaign manager at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), comments: “Councils are increasingly eroding the Green Belt to meet unrealistic and unsustainable housing targets. 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.

“We need stronger protection for the Green Belt, not just supportive words and empty promises. 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 1 million new homes."

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “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 per cent of green belt was converted to residential use, and the green belt is actually 32,000 hectares bigger than it was in 1997.”