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More Green Belt being lost without tackling housing crisis

425,000 houses now planned for Green Belt, of which more than 70% are unaffordable.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) today reveals a significant increase in houses planned for the Green Belt, and yet most of these houses will be unaffordable to those who need them.

Based on local and city-regional planning policies and new data from planning consultants Glenigan [1], CPRE’s annual Green Belt Under Siege report shows that more than 70% of houses proposed for development are not expected to be ‘affordable’ [2]. It also demonstrates that just 16% of houses built on Green Belt land since 2009 outside local plans were classed as ‘affordable’ [3].

In total, 425,000 houses are now planned for Green Belt land. This is an increase of 54% on March 2016, and the biggest year-on-year increase in building proposed in the Green Belt for two decades [4]. Green Belt in the North West, West Midlands and South East is under particular pressure.

Furthermore, Government funds are handsomely rewarding the development of Green Belt land the Government supposedly promised to protect, but without delivering the much-needed affordable homes the funds were designed to encourage. CPRE estimates suggest that the Government’s

New Homes Bonus initiative will reward councils with £2.4 billion for the proposed 425,000 new homes [5].

CPRE recognises the urgent need for new homes. It recently illustrated that rural affordable housing provision is in steep decline, exacerbating an already stark affordable housing shortage [6]. CPRE believes that Government should help councils build again and help fund genuinely affordable homes, including on small rural sites.

Tom Fyans, director of campaigns and policy at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE):

“As we engage in a much-needed debate about the type, tenure and quality of housing local communities need, it is important to look at what housing is currently being planned and where it is being delivered.

“Green Belt is being lost at an ever faster rate, yet the type of housing being built now or in the future will do very little to address the affordable housing crisis faced by many families and young people. We must not be the generation that sells off our precious Green Belt in the mistaken belief it will help improve the affordability of housing. The only ones set to benefit from future Green Belt development will be landowners and the big housebuilders, not communities in need of decent, affordable housing.

“Protecting the Green Belt is part of, not a barrier to, solving the housing crisis. It encourages us to focus on the 1 million plus homes we can build on suitable brownfield sites, and avoid the environmental costs of urban sprawl. The Green Belt makes our towns and cities better places to live. It provides quick access to the countryside. The Government must do more to protect it.” [7]

While the Conservative manifesto pledged to ‘maintain the existing strong protections on designated land like the Green Belt’, recent proposals in the Government’s Housing White Paper could prompt further Green Belt loss [8]. Under the plans, local authorities could be expected to review Green Belt boundaries every five years, and allocate more land for development if developers fail to build at the required speed [9].

Councils are expected to consider environmental and planning designations, such as Green Belt, when calculating their housing targets, yet many have chosen to ignore this requirement. The release of Green Belt is most often justified by ‘exceptional circumstances’.

Green Belt was first designated in 1955 to prevent urban sprawl [10]. A poll marking the Green Belt’s 60th anniversary demonstrated its widespread support amongst the public [11].


Notes to editors

[1] CPRE, Green Belt Under Siege, June 2017.
These local planning policies include adopted and draft local plans, as well as regional plans - such as the recently published draft Greater Manchester Spatial Framework. The data are up to date as of end of May 2017.

[2] Definition of ‘affordable’: CPRE has analysed draft or adopted local plans proposing new housing on current Green Belt land. Most local plans contain policies on the proportion of new housing that should be considered 'affordable', and the definition of 'affordable' is set in the Government's National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). According to the Government definition, new housing can meet the requirement to be ‘affordable’ if it includes either an element of low cost homes for sale or shared ownership, or housing for rent. The ‘housing for rent’ houses can be rented at rates of up to 80% of open market rents.

[3] See Green Belt Under Siege (2017), p. 6.

[4] Green Belt Under Siege (2017) regional breakdowns:

table 1 for GBUS

Rate of proposed building:

 table 2 for GBUS

CPRE London, meanwhile, has produced a map demonstrating particular threats to London’s Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land.

[5] The New Homes Bonus was established in 2011 by the Coalition Government as an incentive for local authorities to allow more housebuilding. Payments are made when new houses are built and match the level of council tax raised on these new houses. Typically, payments are then repeated for a period of four years. See CPRE, Green Belt Under Siege, p. 8.

Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, on protecting the Green Belt: House of Commons, 7 February 2017.

[6] Recent CPRE research indicated a growing affordable housing crisis in rural areas. Just one in 10 rural homes are affordable, in contrast to one in five in urban areas. Yet over the last five years, the proportion of new affordable homes being provided in rural areas has more than halved to 16%. See CPRE, Developers renege on affordable homes as countryside faces housing crisis, 6 June 2017.

[7] At least 1.1 million homes could be built on suitable brownfield sites across England: CPRE, Housing capacity on brownfield land, October 2016.

[8] Conservative party manifesto (2017), p. 71.

[9] See Paul Miner, CPRE, Green Belt: when exceptional circumstances aren’t exceptional, 30 March 2017.

CPRE urges the Government to withdraw New Homes Bonus money from market housing on protected land, and to require councils to review their Green Belts no more than once every 15 years – the recommended lifespan of a local plan.

[10] Organisations such as UN Habitat have argued that unhindered urban sprawl causes economic and social dislocation: Urban sprawl - Europe’s ignored environmental challenge, European Environment Agency, 24 November 2006; Urban trends: urban sprawl now a global problem, UN Habitat press release, 18 March 2010.

[11] An Ipsos MORI poll to mark the 60th anniversary of the Green Belt found that 64% of respondents believe that the Green Belt should be protected: CPRE, 60th anniversary poll shows clear support for Green Belt, August 2015.

If you would like to talk to author Paul Miner about the report in more detail then please contact Benjamin Halfpenny on 020 7981 2819 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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