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Pressure on Green Belt quadruples since 2013, says CPRE

The pressures have quadrupled despite a soaring appreciation of green space, says CPRE.

  • Local plans for housing on the Green Belt have quadrupled in the past eight years according to new research from CPRE, the countryside charity
  • Access to countryside and green spaces has never been more important as a new poll reveals two-thirds of adults think protecting and enhancing green spaces should be a higher priority after lockdown

Despite a surge in demand for time in green space, the Green Belt – the countryside next door for 30 million people – is facing extreme and sustained pressure, according to new research from CPRE, the countryside charity.

The annual State of Greenbelt 2021 report reveals there are currently 0.25 million (257,944) homes proposed to be built on land removed from the Green Belt – over four times as many (475% increase) as in 2013. With only one in ten considered affordable, these new homes will do little to tackle the affordable housing crisis.

This pressure is only set to increase under damaging changes to the planning system currently being considered by the government – the analysis reveals the new formula to determine housing supply proposed by the government could lead to at least a 35% increase in housing on the Green Belt. The report highlights a number of local case studies where increased pressure on Green Belts is leading to the loss of valuable open land for local communities.

This huge loss of countryside near where people live is in direct contradiction to overwhelming demand for access to quality time in green space and nature. A new poll, conducted by Opinium on behalf of CPRE, shows a surge in appreciation for local green spaces since the first lockdown, many of which are located in our Green Belts, and found that:

  • Over two thirds (67%) of adults think protecting and enhancing green spaces should be a higher priority after lockdown;
  • Nearly half (46%) reported visiting green spaces more since the start of lockdown – a dramatic 11 percentage point increase since April 2020;
  • 59% reported they are more aware of the importance of these local green spaces for our mental health and wellbeing since lockdown.

Commenting on the findings, Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said:

‘Local countryside and green spaces have been a lifeline through lockdown. Our poll shows massive public support for protecting these places – their importance for our mental health and wellbeing is undeniable. So, to see the growing level of threat faced by the Green Belt, the countryside next door for millions of people living in our towns and cities, is extremely worrying.

‘The government can and must act to stop the loss of Green Belt and ensure greater access to nature and green space is at the heart of our planning system. This can be done by making best use of land that’s been built on previously before even considering development on the Green Belt.

‘The public is crying out for more access to nature, green space and countryside – it’s time ministers realised this and put people and nature at the heart of their changes to the planning system.’

Despite evidence that there is already enough space on previously used land (known as brownfield) and other land already granted planning permission for the government to reach its housing targets for the duration of this parliament, the upcoming changes to planning look set to further increase pressure on the Green Belt.

The report lays out the consequences of this approach as only 10% of the developments planned for Green Belt land between 2015 and 2020 are considered to be affordable. On this trajectory, we risk losing ever more Green Belt while having no impact on the housing crisis and providing homes local communities are able to afford.

To make sure we protect and enhance the Green Belt while allowing for the genuinely affordable new homes that are sorely needed, CPRE is urging the government to put people and nature at the heart of the forthcoming Planning Bill.

Please call our Media Relations Lead, Jonathan Jones, on 07739 332 796 for further information.

Notes to editors

About State of the Green Belt 2021

This report investigates the two key ways in which Green Belt is developed:

1. ‘Exceptional circumstances’ are required to remove land from the Green Belt, usually with the intention of future development, through the local plan process.
2. ‘Very special circumstances’ are required to build on land currently designated as Green Belt determined through planning applications.

As with previous CPRE Green Belt reports, this report incorporates a range of data sources including planning application data provided by Glenigan, a construction industry research consultancy, with additional analysis of planning application documentation provided the affordable homes figures for each application; local plans: The data includes: proposals identified in plans that have reached a late stage in their development, from ‘pre-submission’ (regulation 19) publication to adopted plans. We did not include allocations for safeguarded land and previously developed land whenever possible. Government publications: are used and referenced where relevant, in particular the Land Use Change Statistics. The 257,000 figure is for proposals in local plans and represents a nearly five-fold increase from the 54,600 houses identified in local plans at comparable stage in 2013. (See CPRE, Green Belt And The National Planning Policy Framework: 18 months on, August 2013 – available on request.)

About the Opinium Poll

Opinium conducted a survey of 2,010 UK adults (18+). Fieldwork was undertaken between 12 and 16 February 2021. The figures have been weighted to nationally representative criteria.