Warn­ing on green land lost to new hous­ing

» Level of house build­ing ap­proved in ar­eas of out­stand­ing nat­u­ral beauty rises 82% in five years » Cam­paign­ers blame mis­guided pol­icy as ‘pro­tected land’ could be cov­ered in con­crete

i Newspaper - - FRONT PAGE - By Padraic Flana­gan

Some of England’s best-loved land­scapes are be­ing buried un­der bricks and con­crete as thou­sands of new homes are be­ing built in pro­tected ar­eas, en­vi­ron­men­tal cam­paign­ers have warned.

A re­port by the Cam­paign to Pro­tect Ru­ral England (CPRE) re­veals an 82 per cent in­crease in new homes given plan­ning per­mis­sion in England’s 34 ar­eas of out­stand­ing nat­u­ral beauty (AONBs) in the past five years.

It means al­most 15,500 new homes have been given the go-ahead since 2012, while the num­ber of plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tions has more than dou­bled in that time, de­spite gov­ern­ment com­mit­ments to pro­tect AONBs “for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions”.

Th­ese ar­eas have the high­est level of plan­ning pro­tec­tion, but the CPRE’s re­port shows a five­fold in­crease in the amount of AONB land set to be lost un­der con­crete, of­ten by de­vel­op­ers ex­ploit­ing poorly de­fined plan­ning pol­icy. Five years ago, plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tions cov­ered 41 hectares of AONB land while the lat­est fig­ures show at least 212 hectares un­der threat.

The cam­paign­ers warn that pres­sure on lo­cal au­thor­i­ties will only in­crease, with ap­pli­ca­tions for a fur­ther 12,741 homes in AONBs cur­rently await­ing de­ci­sion.

Based on the 2016-17 hous­ing ap­proval rate of 64 per cent, this could mean a fur­ther 8,154 homes, re­sult­ing in a to­tal of 23,639 homes be­ing ap­proved in AONBs since 2012.

The AONB des­ig­na­tion cov­ers around 15 per cent of England, from the Cotswolds to the North Pen­nines, and con­tains some of the most beau­ti­ful land­scapes out­side na­tional parks.

The CPRE re­port, Beauty be­trayed: how reck­less hous­ing de­vel­op­ment threat­ens England’s AONBs, shows that de­vel­op­ment pres­sure is high­est in the South East and South West.

Ac­cord­ing to in­de­pen­dent re­search car­ried out for the cam­paign­ers, the Home Counties’ green belt risks be­com­ing a gi­ant sub­urb of Lon­don be­cause of pres­sure from de­vel­op­ers.

Emma Mar­ring­ton, CPRE se­nior ru­ral pol­icy cam­paigner, said: “What is, in ef­fect, a sell-off of AONBs is surely among the worst ex­am­ples of mis­guided hous­ing pol­icy, where the drive to build more houses, any houses, no mat­ter how un­af­ford­able, to meet hous­ing tar­gets, is at the cost of our most beau­ti­ful land­scapes.

“While CPRE ad­vo­cates the build­ing of the right homes in the right places, AONBs are not the right place. On top of this, cur­rent de­vel­op­ment on AONBs shows lit­tle ev­i­dence that what’s built will ac­tu­ally help solve the hous­ing cri­sis, which is more to do with af­ford­abil­ity than lack of land.”

A gov­ern­ment spokesman said a na­tional plan­ning pol­icy frame­work sets out guide­lines for au­thor­i­ties to con­sider when de­cid­ing whether AONB de­vel­op­ments are jus­ti­fied.

“We’re com­mit­ted to con­serv­ing and en­hanc­ing Ar­eas of Out­stand­ing Nat­u­ral Beauty – that’s why our na­tional plan­ning frame­work has strong pro­tec­tions in place,” the spokesman said.

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The Can­ter­bury Cathe­dral Girls’ Choir was formed in 2014

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