Green Belt being ‘chipped away’ warn campaigners

Campaigners have warned Green Belt land is being ‘chipped away’ as official figures show councils released more than 5,000 hectares of land in 2017 alone.

An analysis of the latest government data by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) shows that since 2012 almost 10,000 hectares of Green Belt land has been released from ‘protected’ Green Belt boundaries by local councils.

The campaigning group also claims 10 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, the 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.

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.

The analysis comes just days after Theresa May announced the Government was lifting the cap on councils borrowing to fund new developments.

‘National planning rules require local councils to show exceptional circumstances when they remove land from the Green Belt,’ said CPRE planning campaigner, Rebecca Pullinger.

‘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,’ added Ms Pullinger.

‘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.’

Jamie Hailstone
Senior reporter - NewStart


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