Green Belt land released for housing at increasing rate

The Campaign to Protect Rural England has blamed ‘unrealistic’ housing targets for the increased release of Green Belt land for development, after it conducted an analysis of government data on protected land across the UK.

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Around 50 per cent of all the Green Belt land released for housing since 2012 was released in the past year, according to the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

The campaign group has analysed data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, showing that almost 10,000 hectares of land have been released from Green Belt boundaries by local authorities in the last five years. Moreover, just ten councils have together released more than 5,000 hectares in the past year.

Publishing the analysis today (4 October), CPRE has blamed unrealistic government housing targets, and a slow rate of actual building work on land already granted planning permission, for what it describes as a ‘consistent erosion of the Green Belt’, with local authorities continuing to release Green Belt land to keep up with housing demands ‘that housebuilders and developers are failing to meet’.

“National planning rules require local councils to show exceptional circumstances when they remove land from the Green Belt,” commented Rebecca Pullinger, CPRE Planning Campaigner. “These statistics illustrate that since 2012, such changes are no longer exceptional.”

She continued: “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.

“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.”

Back in August, CPRE stated that proposals to build housing on Green Belt land have risen to 460,000 as of June 2018 – of which 78 per cent will not be affordable by the government’s definition. However, the significance of this claim has been disputed by some, with Jonn Elledge of CityMetric noting that the figure of 460,000 relates to regional plans that have not yet been approved.

Today, CPRE has reiterated its position that the government and local authorities should focus on building on brownfield land, of which the group claims there is enough to accomodate more than one million homes.

The group has also welcomed the announcement from the Prime Minister yesterday that the borrowing cap for councils to build new social housing will be scrapped, meaning they will be able to borrow more money against the income they receive from rents. It has been suggested this move could enable tens of thousands more affordable homes to be built, but the government has yet to confirm when this change will come into force.