According to new research by Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), more than a quarter of a million houses are now planned to be built on green belt land.
The figures from CPRE, published today, indicate that 275,000 houses are now planned for England’s Green Belt in a bid to tackle the housing crisis, which is an increase of 50,000 on last year and nearly 200,000 more than when the Government introduced its planning reforms back in March 2012.
To build or not to build?
The ethical dilemma raised by building on green belt is a strongly debated and highly controversial topic. Many campaign groups instead urge governments to develop brownfield sites instead, in order to protect England’s world-renowned and environmentally significant countryside. However, there is also a very genuine argument that the green belt is an archaic obstacle hindering UK housing and construction in general.
According to research by London First, 22% (or roughly 13 square miles) of the Greater London Authority’s area is so-called green belt land. Golf courses alone cover 7.1%, or around 10 square miles – an area twice the size of Chelsea and Kensington.
It’s not just London either. Only 10% of land in England is developed, just over half of this, 5% of total land, is for homes and gardens, with only 1% of all land actually used for housing. If we were to increase our housing stock by 1.3% per year this would make a massive difference in tackling the housing shortage and would involve building on a mere 0.01% of land each year; a small loss to solve the housing crisis, many argue.
Whatever your thoughts are on green belt, we are all in agreement that more homes are needed in Britain today. Perhaps what we really need is tangible, immoveable targets that won’t change the second permission to build in the countryside is given.
For example, the 275,000 houses now planned are an increase of 25% on last year’s targets, and nearly twice that of the 147,000 houses outlined for Greenbelt in Labour’s 2009 regional plans. Concerns seem to be around opening a floodgate where once permission is granted, England’s green and pleasant land will descend into a concrete carbuncle.
Planning campaign manager at CPRE, Paul Miner said “Councils are increasingly eroding the Greenbelt to meet unrealistic and unsustainable housing targets.”
"The Government is proposing to encourage further development in the Greenbelt. Our Greenbelt is invaluable in preventing urban sprawl and providing the countryside next door for 30 million people.”
“We need stronger protection for the Greenbelt, not just supportive words and empty promises. To build the affordable homes young people and families need, the Government should empower councils to prioritise the use of brownfield sites.
"Brownfield land is a self-renewing resource that can provide at least one million new homes.”