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Rural towns and villages are being placed under siege by the threat of 700,000 new homes in the countryside, according to a hard- hitting report.
Almost 200,000 of these are earmarked for supposedly protected Green Belt land thanks to the Government’s changes to planning laws, the Campaign to Protect Rural England warns today.
Its report reveals that just 84 local authorities – a quarter of those outside London – propose to prioritise building on brownfield sites.
A study of planning decisions also shows that 39 major housing developments in the year to March 2013, totalling 8,700 new houses on greenfield land, were given the green light after an appeal by developers – double the number the year before.
Some 17 appeals were granted personally by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles. In another 14 cases councils simply abandoned their objections because they feared losing on appeal.
The CPRE claims that the overall proportion of major appeals granted has risen to 46 per cent, up from 31.7 per cent in 2008-09.
The report has been written to coincide with the second anniversary this week of the Coalition’s National Planning Policy Framework, which established a presumption in favour of ‘sustainable development’ to kickstart house building.
But a third of all councils still do not have a Local Plan for development in place. These are supposed to give more power to residents and town hall chiefs to resist unwanted development.
The CPRE says the changes have led to an ‘unnecessary loss of countryside’ and have left some towns and villages facing the prospect of changing out of all recognition. At Kentford in Suffolk, proposals for 340 new homes are expected to double the size of the village.
At Warton in Lancashire, 1,365 homes are to be built in a town of just 3,573 houses – expected to lead to a population increase of up to 92 per cent.
The report says: ‘The most recent Government figures state that there is enough suitable brownfield land available for 1,500,000 new houses. Emerging and adopted Local Plans are, however, proposing significant amounts of building on greenfield land.The CPRE says the changes have led to an ‘unnecessary loss of countryside’
‘We estimate that land has been allocated for 729,000 new houses, of which 190,000 are in the Green Belt. These sites are often on the edge of country towns and villages.’ It adds: ‘Many of these “villages under siege” are faced with planning applications proposing development well in excess of the amount envisaged in emerging or adopted Local Plans.’
Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the CPRE, said the report provided ‘firm evidence’ that the Government’s planning reforms were not achieving their stated aims.
He added: ‘Far from community control of local development, we are seeing councils under pressure to disregard local democracy to meet top-down targets.
‘Local authorities are having to agree fanciful housing numbers and allocate huge areas of greenfield land to meet them. Where they lack an up-to-date plan, the countryside is up for grabs and many villages feel under siege from developers.’
Planning Minister Nick Boles said the report was ‘inaccurate, exaggerated and based on a spurious analysis of the facts’, adding: ‘We have given councils the power to shape where the new homes our country needs should and shouldn’t go.’