Green belt being 'gobbled up' by unaffordable homes

6 August 2018, 09:05

Almost half a million homes are being planned on green belt land but more than three quarters of them will not be classed as affordable, the Campaign to Protect Rural England has warned.

The charity has criticised plans allowing previously protected land to be built on and has accused minsters of failing to protect the green belt.

Analysis by the CPRE shows that 72% of homes built on the green belt last year were not classed as affordable, and that 78% of the 459,000 properties in the planning stages also come up short.

Tom Fyans, director of campaigns and policy at CPRE, has accused developers of misleading the public over a perceived necessity to build on the green belt in order to meet increased demand for housing.

CPRE claims there is room on existing brownfield sites in England to build one million homes, and that local authorities across the country should not feel under pressure to allow development on the green belt.

Mr Fyans said: "We are being sold a lie by many developers. As they sell off and gobble up the green belt to build low density, unaffordable housing, young families go on struggling to afford a place to live.

"The affordable housing crisis must be addressed with increasing urgency, while acknowledging that far from providing the solution, building on the green belt only serves to entrench the issue.

"It is essential, if the green belt is to fulfil its main purposes and provide 30 million of us with access to the benefits of the countryside, that the redevelopment of brownfield land is prioritised, and green belt protection strengthened."

Around 13% of England has now been developed on, but government officials say the amount of green belt has actually increased by around 30,000 hectares over the last two decades.

There have been heavy restrictions on building on such land since the end of the Second World War.

"We are clear that building the homes our country needs does not mean tearing up our countryside," said a spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

"Last year, the number of new homes built was the highest in a decade, and only 0.02% of the green belt was developed for residential use.

"We are adding more certainty to the planning system and our new planning rule book strengthens national protections for the green belt, and says that councils may only alter boundaries in exceptional circumstances once they have looked at all other options."

But with councils all over England under pressure to meet housing targets set out by the government, some are finding it difficult to resist approving plans to build on the green belt.

It is more expensive for developers to build on brownfield sites as the land needs to be cleared before it can be reused.

Last week, there were a string of departures at a council in Kent over an internal party dispute over whether development on the green belt should be allowed.

Ten Conservatives left the local wing of the party in Gravesham to start a new group after being told they would not be selected for the 2019 election, amid mounting tension over the issue of green belt development.

It is a similar situation in Hillingdon in London, where CPRE reports that more than 25% of homes built between 2013 and 2017 went up on the green belt, despite having enough suitable brownfield land to build 4,200 homes by 2023.