Time to re-think the green belt
With the recent publication of the Campaign to Protect Rural England's (CPRE) annual State of the Green Belt report, the debate about building on the green belt has been reignited.
The report notes that applications to build an additional 35,000 homes on the green belt were submitted last year which takes the total number of proposed homes to 460,000.
Although the Government has pledged to protect green belt land, many housing campaigners believe much more land could be released to build the affordable new homes that are needed, and argue that the statistics set out in the CPRE are misleading. Most of the construction to date has been on brownfield sites within the green belt and 18% of green belt land is classed as neglected often consisting of derelict buildings, rubbish, electricity pylons and other such eyesores.
Only 45% is green and a large percentage is farmland rather than rolling fields of wild flowers. Campaigners argue that releasing more of this land could in fact improve certain parts of the green belt with examples of rehabilitation of industrial sites into nature reserves being given (48 nature reserves having been created since 2009 on former green belt land). The original intention behind the green belts was to prevent urban sprawl, not to conserve nature or beautiful landscapes.
Is it time to reconsider the value of the green belt and rethink its protections going forward given the national shortage of affordable housing? The debate will no doubt continue to rage. The key point to consider perhaps is that only 27% of the construction on green belt meets the definition of "affordable" and it is there that more work is required.