Telegraph (a picture of non-green belt as ever)
The number of new homes built on the protected Green Belt has more than doubled since the Coalition was formed.
Figures obtained by The Telegraph show that 15 new homes in England are now approved on Green Belt land every single day.
Campaigners said the findings were “alarming” and called on the Government to intervene to save parts of the green belt from developers’ bulldozers.
The Green Belt is a ribbon of land around towns and cities which were designated in the aftermath of the Second World War to stop urban sprawl.
The National Planning Policy Framework, which was introduced in March 2012, was meant to introduce further protections for the Green Belt from developers.
The figures are contained in a report titled “Green Belt under development” by Glenigan, the planning and construction industry experts which supplies figures to government departments and agencies.
The report found that on the face of it overall planning applications and approvals have been relatively stable over the past five years.
However last year saw the approval of 5,600 new homes on the Green Belt, compared to just 2,260 in 2009/10 – a 148 per cent increase over the five-year period.
This is despite development on the Green Belt only being allowed “in exceptional circumstances” by planning rules. Developments of three or more homes accounted for a growing majority of residential units built on Green Belt sites.
The report showed that approvals have risen progressively since 2009/10, with 227 projects approved in 2013/14 – a 161 per cent rise over the five-year period.
Allan Wilén, economics director at Glenigan, said: “The number of new homes involved is growing. As the economy recovers and demand for new homes increases, so will the potential pressure for the release of more the Green Belt sites.”
The figures would appear to confirm reports of planning wars breaking out across the country with residents battling unwanted schemes forced on communities by councils which have to meet five year housing plans.
Glenigan’s figures were condemned by countryside campaigners, who have long warned that the green belt around towns and cities was not safe from developers.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England said the report was evidence of “a very worrying trend that shows Green Belt policy is not working as it should”.
Paul Miner, a spokesman, said: “CPRE accepts that there are some suitable sites on Green Belt land, such as old hospitals or research centres, that could be re-developed.
“But new homes should be built in the footprint of existing buildings, not allowed to intrude on the rest of the Green Belt, which is what we’re seeing time and time again at the moment.”
The National Trust also said that it was concerned by the evidence that more of the Green Belt was being built on by developers.
Local authorities have a duty under the NPPF to set out where new homes can be built over the next five years.
They can also earmark or “safeguard” other land – including some areas of the green belt – that might be required for future development.
Earlier this year MPs complained in a Parliamentary debate that councils were needlessly earmarking sites on the Green Belt for development.
The Government said that development on the Green Belt was now at its lowest level in terms of acres sacrificed to builders since 1989.
Brandon Lewis, the Planning minister, said that ministers had “fortified the Green Belt” by abolishing targets which were established under the Labour Government.
He said that “official statistics show that the level of Green Belt development is at its lowest rate since modern records began in 1989”.
He said that Government was also encouraging the sale of “surplus brownfield land for redevelopment, and introducing more flexible planning rights so empty and underused buildings can be brought back into productive use”.
He added: “Local Plans are now at the heart of the planning system, so councils decide where development should go.
“There is enough brownfield land to deliver up to 200,000 new homes, and councils should be using their powers and the support that’s available from the Government to prioritise development on these sites, and defend our valuable countryside against urban sprawl.”