Is our green countryside being sacrificed for new housing?

Councils are facing pressure to help hit the Government’s target of 200,000 new properties being built per year, but campaigners are fighting to protect our countryside.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has produced a report that has revealed that there are currently plans to build around 275,000 homes on the green belt – this is 25% higher than the amount of houses last year.

Residents of the area around London, such as Central Berkshire, are worried about the increased rate in which protected land is being set aside for housing development.
Rural Campaigner, Thurstan Abdurgham, has said:
“At the moment, we are set to losing around five square miles of our green belt in order to provide about 13,000 homes.
“The most terrifying thing about these plans is that once such a big part of the green belt has been sacrificed, the principle that ‘the green belt is sacred and untouchable’ will go out the window – more and more development will be carried out on it.”

According to the CPRE, the main problem is that councils are finding clauses in the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework so that they are able to find ways to change green belt boundaries. Furthermore, this is at the fastest rate that it has been in the last two decades.

Paul Miner is the organisation’s planning campaign manager, and has said:
“This has been done to meet unsustainable and unrealistic housing targets. For homes that young people and families need, the Government should not be targeting green belts, they should allow councils to use brownfield sites. Brownfield land is a resource that is self-renewing and can provide at least one million new homes.”

However, the Government disagrees with this statement, saying that they have made it clear that a high demand for housing does not mean that the green belt’s boundary can be altered.
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government has stated:
“When planning where the developments should be carried out, we have kept the local people’s interests in mind through local neighbourhood plans.
“In 2104-2015, only 0.2% of the green belt had been converted to residential housing. As a matter of fact, the green belt is now 32,000 hectares larger than it was in 1997.”

Whilst there is so many opposing the decision to build on our green land, there are many others that believe it is what is necessary as there are so many first time buyers that are struggling to find their way on the property ladder.

Ryan Bourne is the head of policy at the Institute of Economic Affairs, and he has said:
“It is in areas such as London, Cambridge and Oxford that the green belt constraints are the tightest, and the housing crisis and house pricing affordability crisis are the most severe.
“Because of this, the Government is giving local councils the responsibility to decide. But I think that due to the affordability crisis, there will be a lot of pressure on the councils (especially around London) to allow for more of the green belt land to be developed on.”

Is our country in such a state that we now need to build on land that has been preserved and labelled ‘sacred’? Is it right that we are carrying out more and more development on our countryside? What about in another two decades, will there even be any of our green belt left?

*Back to May 2016 Newsletter*

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