More Green Belt land released for housing than ever before

October 4, 2018 / Isla MacFarlane
More Green Belt land released for housing than ever before

New statistics from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show the largest increase in the amount of Green Belt land released for housing to date.

An analysis of the new Government data released by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) shows that since 2012 almost 10,000 hectares of Green Belt land have been released from ‘protected’ Green Belt boundaries by local councils. Ten councils have together released more than 5,000 hectares in the past year alone.

CPRE claim that a combination of unrealistic housing targets set by the government, capacity of the housebuilding industry and slow build out rates on land already granted planning permission has created a perfect storm that has resulted in this consistent erosion of the Green Belt.

Green Belt land is some of the most profitable for developers to build on due to it being ‘shovel ready’, surrounded by countryside and within commuting distance to major towns and cities – making its release for development extremely desirable for housebuilders, CPRE said. This leaves councils to foot the bill for resulting infrastructure requirements, such as schools, shops and roads.

CPRE points out that national planning rules require councils to deliver housing targets that housebuilders and developers are failing to meet. Developers have consistently argued for higher housing figures as part of an opaque process in determining housing demand. This has resulted in constant pressure on councils to continue releasing Green Belt land for housing in order to try and meet these unrealistic targets.

Planning permission was granted for 378,600 homes in England last year. But housebuilders have increased their land banks by 20% over the past 10 years, while the overall rate of actual building of houses has slowed.

Rebecca Pullinger, Planning Campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said, “National planning rules require local councils to show exceptional circumstances when they remove land from the Green Belt. These statistics illustrate that since 2012, such changes are no longer exceptional.

“For too long housebuilders have been able to use land as a tool to manipulate and monopolise the market only to serve their own interests. The Government must stop heaping pressure on councils to deliver unrealistic targets that result in the Green Belt being chipped away. Instead, developers should be held more accountable to deliver the homes that they have promised.

“Building within or on land released from the Green Belt is not the solution: it results in low density, unaffordable homes out of reach of those who desperately need to get a foot on the ladder.”

CPRE is calling on the government to follow through on its commitment to protect the Green Belt and develop clear guidance for local authorities on housing requirements to protect designated land.

However, the MHCLG argue that the Green Belt is bigger today than in 1997. “We are committed to delivering the homes our country needs but that doesn’t mean building all over the Green Belt,” a spokesperson said. “That’s why we have strengthened Green Belt protection through the publication of our revised National Planning Policy Framework earlier this year.

“Under this planning authorities have to demonstrate they have exhausted all other reasonable options to meet development needs before even considering changes to the Green Belt and then evidence exceptional circumstances to justify development.”

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