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Alarming Green Belt Erosion

Tuesday, 07 August 2018 11:27

 460,000 houses being planned for land that will be released from the Green Belt, while the percentage of ‘affordable’ homes built continues to fall 460,000 houses being planned for land that will be released from the Green Belt, while the percentage of ‘affordable’ homes built continues to fall

August 2018

The government is failing in its commitment to protect the Green Belt. 460,000 houses planned on released Green Belt. CPRE’s new report.

The Green Belt remains under severe pressure, despite government commitments to its protection, according to a new report from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

CPRE’s annual State of the Green Belt report [1] highlights that there are currently 460,000 homes being planned to be built on land that will soon be released from the Green Belt [2]. Moving Green Belt boundaries when reviewing local plans makes it easier for local authorities to release land for housing, but is only supposed to take place under ‘exceptional circumstances’. This strategic shrinking of the Green Belt, as a way of getting around its protected status, is as harmful as building on the Green Belt itself.

The report also demonstrates that building on the Green Belt is not solving the affordable housing crisis, and will not do so. Last year 72% of homes built on greenfield land within the Green Belt were unaffordable by the government’s definition [3]

Of the 460,000 homes that are planned to be built on land that will be released from the Green Belt, the percentage of unaffordable homes will increase to 78%.

CPRE warns that this release of land looks set to continue, as one third of local authorities with Green Belt land will find themselves with an increase in housing targets, due to a new method for calculating housing demand. The London (Metropolitan) Green Belt will be the biggest casualty [4].

Tom Fyans, Director of Campaigns and Policy at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said:

‘We are being sold a lie by many developers. As they sell off and gobble up the Green Belt to build low density, unaffordable housing, young families go on struggling to afford a place to live. The affordable housing crisis must be addressed with increasing urgency, while acknowledging that far from providing the solution, building on the Green Belt only serves to entrench the issue.

‘The government is failing in its commitment to protect the Green Belt – it is being eroded at an alarming rate. But it is essential, if the Green Belt is to fulfil its main purposes and provide 30 million of us with access to the benefits of the countryside, that the redevelopment of brownfield land is prioritised, and Green Belt protection strengthened.’

There is currently enough brownfield land in England to accommodate more than 1 million homes [5]. CPRE urges the government and local authorities to ensure that this is redeveloped before any more greenfield land is released from the Green Belt. Local authorities with Green Belt land have enough brownfield land for over 720,000 homes, the report finds, much of which is in areas with a high need for housing and existing infrastructure [6].

In addition to a push for a genuine ‘brownfield first’ approach to development, CPRE are also calling on the government to:

  • retain its commitment to protect the Green Belt by establishing long-term boundaries
  •  halt speculative development in the Green Belt
  •  develop clear guidance for local authorities on housing requirements to protect designated land
  •  support the creation of new Green Belts where local authorities have established a clear need for them



  1. CPRE, State of the Green Belt 2018
  2. The number of houses being planned for land to be released from the Green Belt in local plans analysed in this research: green belt snip
  3. The table shows the number and proportion of affordable housing units completed on greenfield sites in the Green Belt between 2009/10 and 2017/18:
    green belt snip 2
  4. The proportion of Green Belt released for housing is likely to continue to increase with the introduction of the new methodology for calculating housing need in the revised National Planning Policy Framework. Increases in housing will have a disproportionate impact on local authorities within the London (Metropolitan) Green Belt, with a projected average increase of 22% in housing need. This compares to an average increase of 8.5% nationally. The worst hit authority will be Epping Forest, with 93.5% Green Belt and an expected increase of 80% in housing need.
    [Note: these calculations use the formula set out in MHCLG’s ‘Planning for the right homes in the right places’ consultation. However, there was an announcement alongside the new NPPF stating that the exact approach may change.]
  5. CPRE, State of Brownfield 2018.
  6. There is enough suitable brownfield land to provide a minimum of 720,000 homes (over 23,500ha) in local planning authorities with Green Belt land. Over 440,500 of these homes could be built within the next five years (from 163 local authorities with the data).

Case study

Hillingdon, London, with 43% Green Belt land, has enough suitable brownfield land outside the Green Belt that is able to be built on within the next five years for over 4,200 homes, representing more than seven years of housing land supply. Yet despite this, development continues to go ahead within the Green Belt in Hillingdon. Over a quarter of new addresses built between 2013 and 2017 were built in the Green Belt.

Green Belt, greenfield and brownfield definitions

Green Belt is a planning designation. It is land around some of our largest and most historic, towns and cities, covering all land uses.
Brownfield, or previously developed land, is, generally land that has been built on before. A full definition can be found in the National Planning Policy Framework. Brownfield land can also be found within the Green Belt.
Greenfield land has never been built on before. Not all greenfield land is designated as Green Belt

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) fights for a better future for the English countryside. We work locally and nationally to protect, shape and enhance a beautiful, thriving countryside for everyone to value and enjoy. Our members are united in their love for England’s landscapes and rural communities, and stand up for the countryside, so it can continue to sustain, enchant and inspire future generations. Founded in 1926, President: Emma Bridgewater, Patron: Her Majesty The Queen. 

If you would like to help us protect our precious landscapes,This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or become a member today.




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