Green Belt development reaches 20-year high with a quarter of a million new homes planned

The Government has failed to live up to its promise to preserve protected land, a countryside campaign group claims

The number of green belt housing projects under the Conservative Government has doubled, a campaign group claims
The number of green belt housing projects under the Conservative Government has doubled, a campaign group claims

More than a quarter of a million homes are expected to be built on England’s green belt this year, a 20 per cent increase on 2015 and a two decade high.

Plans for the construction of 274,792 new homes have been proposed for the restricted land – which is 55,000 more than in March last year.

Unsurprisingly, London’s green belt is under the most pressure with 117,208 homes proposed - an increase of 35 per cent on last year - according to statistics released last week by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

Elsewhere, Yorkshire has 46,900 houses planned for green belt development, and the West Midlands has 44,170, increases of 14% and 22% on last year’s figures.

The CPRE says this undermines the Conservative Party’s manifesto promise to safeguard national green belt protection and increase protection of important green spaces.

Only Oxfordshire has seen a decrease in the number of green belt homes planned since this time last year - from 4,500 to 3,510, while Nottinghamshire and the South West expect to build the same number as last year - 13,800 and 16,245 respectively.

The government was also recently under fire for allegedly planning to relax laws to build on green belt land after launching a consultation on the matter in December.

The rules would allow councils to “to allocate appropriate small-scale sites in the green belt specifically for starter homes”.

However, a Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman, said: “There are 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.

“Councils are already expected to prioritise development on brownfield sites, with 90% 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,” he said.

According to the CPRE report, green belt boundaries are being changed to accommodate housing at the fastest rate in twenty years.

The Conservative government, they say, have nearly doubled the number of homes planned for green belt land compared to the regional plans outlined by the Labour government in 2009.

The countryside campaign group also says some cities have given the go ahead for green belt development, despite urban brownfield areas being available.

Paul Miner, CPRE's planning campaign manager, said: “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 one million new homes.”

PA contributed to this report.

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