Green belt development has halved

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Over the past two decades the number of new homes built on green belt land surrounding towns and cities has halved…

Research from Countrywide has revealed a decline in the number of developments on green belt land.

A total of 96,000 new homes are thought to have been built on green belt land since 1995. This equates to around 3.5 per cent of 2.7 million homes built in England between 1995 and 2014.

Additionally, a fall in the number of new homes built on green belt each year has halved since the early 2000s. In 2001, the figure stood at 6,700 homes. This fell to 3,248 in 2014.

However, the research revealed a concerning trend over the past five years to build on the land surrounding growing cities in Southern England. This, Countrywide said, reflected the demand for housing in these regions.

London in particular saw significant growth in development on the green belt, increasing from 38 to 48 per cent between 2004 and 2014.

Green belt development has always been a controversial topic. Local authorities have the ability to grant permission to build on green belt in special circumstances such as economic benefits. However, what constitutes a benefit has been widely debated and is often shrouded in uncertainty.

Group Research Director Johnny Morris said: “While development is generally prohibited within the green belt a small number of homes are given permission to be built.

“Many of these development sites would be at odds with common perceptions of green belt.

“Rather than picturesque countryside being concreted over, these sites were either brownfield, infill schemes or unused land with little amenity value.

“Sustained pressure, particularly in the South, to get more homes built and government plans to take a tougher line on local authorities with out of date plans, will likely see more homes built on green belt in future years.

“Just returning to the rates of development on green belt seen in the early noughties would yield an extra 5,000 new homes a year.”

Earlier this year, Countrywide published research showing around 80 railway stations were positioned in the green belt on the edge of cities across England. The company found there was enough unused land in areas within walking distance of those stations that could accommodate nearly half a million new homes.

Morris said: “Given the chronic shortage of new homes in certain areas, we concluded we may not have the luxury of overlooking these potential sites.”

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