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Ministers failing to protect green belt, campaigners warn

The Campaign to Protect Rural England said homes should be built on brownfield sites rather than the green belt.

Almost half a million homes are planned for land being released from the green belt but the building spree will do little to help people get on the property ladder, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) is warning.

Analysis by the charity showed that last year 72% of the homes built on greenfield land within the green belt were not classed as affordable under Government definitions.

That proportion is set to rise to 78% for the 460,000 homes planned for land which will be released from the green belt, the CPRE said.

Tom Fyans, CPRE’s director of campaigns and policy, 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.”

The charity argued that brownfield land, which has previously been used for housing or industrial development, could accommodate more than one million homes in England.

Local authorities with green belt land have enough brownfield sites for over 720,000 homes, the CPRE report claims.

But officials pointed out that the green belt is around 30,000 hectares larger than in 1997 and councils can only alter its boundaries in exceptional circumstances.

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “We are clear that building the homes our country needs does not mean tearing up our countryside.

“Last year the number of new homes built was the highest in a decade, and only 0.02 per cent of the green belt was developed for residential use.

“We are adding more certainty to the planning system and our new planning rulebook strengthens national protections for the green belt, and says that councils may only alter boundaries in exceptional circumstances once they have looked at all other options.”

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