The latest news bulletin from the British Land Reclamation Society (BLRS) reports that the latest survey of England’s green belts shows that, 18 months after the National Planning Policy Framework was imposed, more than half its councils are having to release green belt land for development while brownfield sites are dismissed as not viable.
The new research by the Local Government Information Unit for the National Trust found that 51% of English Councils with green belt are likely or very likely to allocated parts of it for development.
Meanwhile more than half the 147 councils which responded said they had brownfield sites which could meet housing land five-year supplies, but these had not been considered “viable” as defined in the NPPF.
“The green belt has been the star feature of British town and country planning for half a century,” said Trust chairman Simon Jenkins.
“In one of Europe’s most congested countries, it has prevented urban sprawl, protected a vision of rural England and retained access to green spaces for urban dwellers that has been admired worldwide.”
He said councils have always had the freedom to review green belt boundaries if they choose, but planning should give greater weight to protecting green spaces.
“The Government’s definition of ‘sustainable’ is, in practice, being interpreted as ‘profitable’, and has effectively killed the former planning presumption in favour of brownfield land,” he said.
“What is now happening is a policy of let rip, leading to steady erosion. For the first time in British planning history, planning control is now the slave, not the master, of profit.”
The Trust said the new planning practice guidance could actually increase land releases in the countryside and ignores the opportunity to strengthen brownfield policy.
The Autumn Statement has increased pressure on councils to approve development by increasing opportunities to by-pass the planning system and increasing the influence of the New Homes Bonus.
“The prime minister and communities secretary Eric Pickles have always made clear their desire to protect the green belt but this is not what the NPPF appears to be delivering on the ground,” said Trust historic environment director Ingrid Samuel.
“We are calling on the Government to amend its new guidance to ensure the planning system delivers on the Government’s promise to deliver a ‘brownfield-first’ policy, and to reaffirm its commitment to protect valued green spaces from development.”
Earlier evidence collected by the Campaign to Protect Rural England shows that the number of houses approved in green belts has doubled to 150,000 in one year.
“This research shows that the NPPF and targets around housing supply are putting significant strain on councils’ ability to protect green belt,” said LGIU chief executive Jonathan Carr-West.