Published: Thursday, 28th April 2016
Latest research from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has identified that 275,000 houses are now planned for England’s Green Belt.
The figures show an increase of 50,000 houses on last year and nearly 200,000 houses more than when the government introduced its planning reforms in March 2012.
This analysis, based on draft and adopted local plans, is the latest to challenge the government’s commitment to the Green Belt.
The report ‘Green Belt under siege’ pointed out that Communities Secretary Greg Clark recently decided that 1,500 new homes should be built on Green Belt between Gloucester and Cheltenham in one of the biggest such developments for a decade.
This followed proposals in the government’s planning policy consultation to release small sites in the Green Belt for ‘starter homes’.
CPRE’s report claimed 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 locations in Labour’s 2009 regional plans. There is particular pressure in the Metropolitan and West Midlands Green Belt, stated the report.
CPRE argued that Green Belt policy was gradually being weakened through loopholes in planning guidance. “Under pressure from government to set and meet high housing targets, councils are releasing Green Belt for new development through a misappropriated ‘exceptional circumstances’ clause.”
At least three local authorities, Bradford, Durham and Northumberland, have claimed that economic growth justifies an ‘exceptional’ change to the Green Belt, noted the report.
Paul Miner, planning campaign manager at CPRE, commented: “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. We need stronger protection for the Green Belt, not just supportive words and empty promises.”