The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the 2015 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 proposed houses in 2016. 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 the housing crisis. There are several alternatives:
- 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, as we have shown by the Our Green Belt campaign, large numbers of people use the Green Belt every day, often for activities as simple as enjoying an open view or walking the dog.
CPRE tackles a worrying trend towards development on the Green Belt.
CPRE’s Paul Miner on why the Government urgently needs to back up its rhetoric with stronger protections.