CPRE warns Green Belt under threat from 123,000 new homes

Posted 14 September 2016 by Ben Salisbury

The Council to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has warned that the Green Belt faces the "greatest threat" from new homes on 203 separate sites...

The Green Belt across England’s Home Counties are facing their “greatest threat” due to plans to build new homes on more than 200 sites currently protected, according to a new report published this week.

The report from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has found blueprints for more than 123,000 new homes on 203 sites in the London Green Belt.

Over 90% of the sites have been allocated by councils who are under pressure to find suitable sites for development and because of from "unclear national planning guidance and confusing government messages”.

The actual figure could be an underestimate because only two-thirds of local authorities were included in the survey, the CPRE warned.

The report, called “Safe Under Us?” said that the planning system is now unable to protect the Green Belt and that current policies if enacted upon will mean large areas of the Green Belt are lost.

The report found evidence that planning inspectors are telling councils that the Green Belt cannot be a “constraint” on development. It found that most of the 203 sites “are allocated in Local Plans documents, so the threats are real”.

The report said: “Already some areas of Green Belt have lost their designation, a number of sites are threatened with planning permission, while others are being built or have already been built.”

The Metropolitan Green Belt is a protected area with the aim to curb urban sprawl. It covers 514,040 hectares and is more than 60 years old.

84,000 hectares (207,000 acres) are under threat, as well as 121,000 hectares (300,000 acres) in Surrey and 97,000 hectares (240,000 acres) in Essex.

 It said in Hertfordshire 84,000 hectares are under threat, as well as 121,000 hectares in Surrey and 97,000 hectares in Essex.

The CPRE said cancels were using the demand for new homes as justification for building on the Green Belt in “exceptional circumstances”, a loophole in new planning rules from 2012.

The CPRE said the problem was being “exacerbated by the effects of land-banking”, adding: “Companies, having obtained planning permission, hoard the land until the profit forecast has been achieved. They then sell it on to a developer at an inflated price.”

The CPRE wants the Government to stop councils using the “exceptional circumstances” clause in the National Planning Policy Framework to justify building on the Green Belt.

Richard Knox-Johnston, chairman of the London Green Belt Council, said: “Promises were made in the Conservative general election manifesto that the Green Belt would be ‘safe under us’.

“However, councils are telling their residents that there is no alternative but to build in the Green Belt.

“Our evidence shows that in spite of the Government’s promise, councils are responding to a series of national messages and policies which forces them to release Green Belt land to receive financial incentives and avoid sanctions.

 “We now need government to appreciate that this situation is not acceptable and to introduce measures to reinstate the protection of Green Belt as a matter of urgency.”

The new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, promised to protect the Green Belt in and around London from developers and said he would not allow any building on the 90,000 acres of Green Belt within the M25.

A Communities and Local Government Department spokesmen said: “These claims are totally misleading as they are based purely on projections in Local Plans, including Plans not yet adopted.”

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