Land for 600,000 more homes must be found by 2016

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The Independent Online
ANOTHER 600,000 houses must be built in the English countryside by 2016, on top of those for which land has already been allocated, according to a new report seen by The Independent.

Most of the extra new homes - 400,000 - will need to be built on greenfield sites in the already crowded South-east, according to the Royal Town Planning Institute.

The study, likely to reignite the controversy over housing and the countryside, has been prepared for the Government's Urban Task Force, under Lord Rogers of Riverside, which is examining the question of where new homes should be built.

After surveying local councils, the institute estimates that land has so far only been allocated in structure plans for just over a million of the 1,640,000 new houses that the countryside in England may need to take if future household projection figures are to be met. However, its conclusion depends on two crucial assumptions - first, that the Government will actually want to follow the household projections, and second, that 40 per cent of the total must be built in the countryside (as the Government's target is for 60 per cent of the total to be built on brownfield sites in towns).

In fact, the Government has said it wants to move away from the "predict and provide" approach based on household projections, to a new approach based on the capacity of counties to take more building. Furthermore, the 60/40 figure is subject to review.

Yet the study, the Greenfield Land Survey, will still ring alarm bells with its new figures as the Urban Task Force moves towards completion of its own report, expected next month. "It's absolutely crucial to face up to the reality of both brownfield and greenfield development," said Brian Raggett, the institute's president. "There are difficult decisions ahead."

The survey follows the publication last week of the National Land Use Database, which looked at the availability of brownfield sites and concluded that the Government would have an uphill task meeting its 60 per cent brownfield building target.

The greenfield survey has caused serious differences within the Urban Task Force, and threatens to blow apart the fragile coalition brokered by John Prescott on building new homes in the green belt.