Figures published by CPRE show that over 150,000 houses, along with over 1,000 hectares of mines, offices and warehousing, are planned for Green Belt sites. This is an increase of 84% in a year and comes despite Government assurances that its planning reforms would ‘maintain protection of the Green Belt’.
CPRE is raising serious concerns about whether the Government’s pledge to prevent building in the Green Belt other than in ‘exceptional circumstances’ is being implemented effectively. Three years have passed since Secretary of State Eric Pickles pledged to revoke the regional plans that ‘worst of all threatened the destruction of the Green Belt’. New CPRE analysis shows that the long and protracted work by the Government to revoke regional plans has now been largely undone, with the proposed level of building on the Green Belt back to the same level as in these former plans.
CPRE’s new evidence shows that across the country 150,464 houses are planned for Green Belt sites. This follows a previous evaluation undertaken in August 2012, which found that over 81,000 dwellings were planned, equivalent to an area the size of Slough. Over the next twenty years the proposals would now lead to a much bigger area, one the size of either the London Borough of Hounslow or Redditch, being built on.
But it is not all bad news. The Government issued a Written Ministerial Statement in July stating that that the single issue of housing demand does not in itself justify building on the Green Belt. CPRE has welcomed this statement and now calls on Ministers to take urgent further action over the coming months to safeguard the Green Belt, including:
- making a clear statement that suitable brownfield sites in urban areas should be used before greenfield land in the Green Belt for new development;
- introducing measures to help local authorities to work together to safeguard the Green Belt and direct development to areas in need of regeneration; and
- providing clear guidance on the requirement for supplying five years’ worth of sites for new housing in local plans, to reduce the scope for developers to promote Green Belt or greenfield land when better brownfield sites are available.
CPRE is also calling on members of the public to show their support for the Green Belt by signing our Save Our Countryside charter (www.saveourcountryside.org.uk).
Paul Miner, Senior Planning Campaigner for CPRE, said: ‘Ministers saying that the Green Belt is not being given the level of protection they expected, is a welcome recognition of the problem. But the extent to which the threat is growing – nearly doubling in a year – is deeply worrying. It should not be necessary to build on Green Belt land when there is enough brownfield land available for a million and a half new homes.’
Paul Miner concluded: ‘Green Belts prevent urban sprawl and are the green lungs of many of our largest or most historic towns and cities. Ministers now need to go further. Hard decisions are needed to help ensure both urban regeneration and protection of the Green Belt’.