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
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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