Campaign to Protect Rural England Standing up for your countryside

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Green Belts: breathing spaces for people and nature

We are concerned about the increasing number of houses planned for Green Belt land in local plans, as outlined in our Green Belt Under Siege report. This comes despite leading politicians from all major parties pledging their support for its protection.

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The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the 2017 Conservative Manifesto clearly state that Ministers attach great importance to the Green Belt and will maintain existing levels of protection. The NPPF also states that Green Belt boundaries should only be changed in a Local Plan under “exceptional circumstances” and only permit most forms of development in “very special circumstances”. But local authorities continue to interpret these rules in a far more lax manner than they should.

There is a worrying trend of increased proposals for housebuilding on the Green Belt, rising from 81,000 proposed houses in 2012 to 275,000 in 2016 to 425,000 in 2017. Planning inspectors continue to sign off significant releases of Green Belt for development around major cities despite there being ample brownfield land available: from the totals given above, proposals for 86,000 houses in the Green Belt have been signed off since 2012.

Getting the facts straight

Critics of Green Belt policy tend to fall victim to one or more of the many Green Belt myths, such as that releasing Green Belt land is the answer to England's affordable housing crisis. Our latest research shows that more than 70% of the houses proposed on the Green Belt will not be affordable for those who need them. As well as damaging precious green spaces, building on the Green Belt fails to provide the houses needed. Instead, the focus should be elsewhere:

  • CPRE research shows there are enough derelict (brownfield) sites available and suitable for building at least a million new homes.
  • England’s major house builders are sitting on huge areas of land with planning permission which could provide over 280,000 new homes.
  • Long-term empty houses could provide homes for an additional 300,000 families.

Strong protection for the Green Belt helps the economy by promoting urban regeneration and keeping housing and business close to services and transport links. In addition, Green Belt is the countryside next door for 30 million people, and our recent research has shown its value as a way for people to connect with nature and wildlife.  

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