The Daily Telegraph

Green belt under threat as plans to build new houses quadruple

- By Olivia Rudgard

THE number of houses planned for the green belt has quadrupled since 2013, figures reveal.

Analysis by CPRE, the leading countrysid­e charity, found that 257,944 homes are to be built on green belt land under plans passed by local councils. This number has soared from 54,600, just eight years ago. Local authoritie­s are under growing pressure to meet stringent housing standards leading them to release more land from the green belt for building, the charity warned.

It said reforms to planning regulation­s introduced last year by the Ministry of Housing, Communitie­s and Local Government were likely to put even greater pressure on the land. Controvers­y over a “mutant algorithm”, which required rural councils in the south of England to meet high housing targets, led Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State, to announce a new policy which focused instead on building near cities.

This meant 20 of England’s largest urban areas having their targets boosted by 35 per cent. This change is likely to put even more pressure on the green belt near urban areas, CPRE said.

Land is supposed to be released from the green belt for building only under “exceptiona­l” or “very special” circumstan­ces. The charity excluded almost 40,000 homes built on brownfield sites in the green belt from 2015 onwards from the figures, and suggested that these areas should be prioritise­d for housing developmen­t.

Crispin Truman, chief executive of the charity, said: “Local countrysid­e and green spaces have been a lifeline through lockdown.

“Our poll shows massive public support for protecting these places – their importance for our mental health and wellbeing is undeniable. So, to see the growing level of threat faced by the green belt, the countrysid­e next door for millions of people living in our towns and cities, is extremely worrying.

“The government can and must act to stop the loss of the green belt and ensure greater access to nature and green space is at the heart of our planning system.”

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