Despite a surge in demand for time in green space, the Green Belt – the countryside next door for 30 million people – is facing extreme and sustained pressure, according to new research from CPRE, the countryside charity. The State of Greenbelt 2021 report reveals there are 0.25 million (257,944) homes proposed to be built on land removed from the Green Belt – more than four times as many (475 per cent increase) as in 2013. With only one in 10 considered affordable, these new homes will do little to tackle the affordable housing crisis. This pressure is only set to increase under damaging changes to the planning system being considered by the government – the analysis reveals the new formula to determine housing supply proposed by the government could lead to at least a 35 per cent increase in housing on the Green Belt. The report highlights a number of local case studies where increased pressure on Green Belts is leading to the loss of valuable open land for local communities. This huge loss of countryside near where people live is in direct contradiction to overwhelming demand for access to quality time in green space and nature. A new poll, conducted by Opinium on behalf of CPRE, shows a surge in appreciation since the first lockdown for local green spaces, many of which are in our Green Belts, and found that: • More than two-thirds (67 per cent) of adults think protecting and enhancing green spaces should be a higher priority after lockdown • Almost half (46 per cent) reported visiting green spaces more since the start of lockdown – a dramatic 11 percentage point increase since April 2020 • A total of 59 per cent reported they are more aware of the importance of these local green spaces for our mental health and well-being since lockdown Commenting on the findings, Crispin Truman, CPRE chief executive, said: “Local countryside and green spaces have been a lifeline through lockdown. Our poll shows massive public support for protecting these places – their importance for our mental health and well-being is undeniable. “So, to see the growing level of threat faced by the Green Belt, the countryside next door for millions of people living in our towns and cities, is extremely worrying. “The government can and must act to stop the loss of Green Belt and ensure greater access to nature and green space is at the heart of our planning system. “This can be done by making best use of land that’s been built on previously before even considering development on the Green Belt. The public is crying out for more access to nature, green space and countryside – it’s time ministers realised this and put people and nature at the heart of their changes to the planning system.” Despite evidence that there is already enough space on previously-used land (known as brownfield) and other land already granted planning permission for the government to reach its housing targets for the duration of this parliament, the upcoming changes to planning look set to further increase pressure on the Green Belt. The report lays out the consequences of this approach as only 10 per cent of the developments planned for Green Belt land between 2015 and 2020 are considered to be affordable. On this trajectory, we risk losing ever more Green Belt while having no impact on the housing crisis and providing homes local communities are able to afford. To make sure we protect and enhance the Green Belt while allowing for the genuinely affordable new homes that are sorely needed, CPRE is urging the government to put people and nature at the heart of the forthcoming Planning Bill.
There is enough brownfield land for 1.3 million new homes, while more than half a million already have planning permission, a report from CPRE, the countryside charity, reveals. The figures demonstrate that there is already enough available and suitable land in the planning system to meet the government’s ambition to build 300,000 homes per year for the next five years (this Parliament), calling into question the hugely controversial plans to deregulate the planning system that has been proposed by ministers. Brownfield land – land that has previously been built on and now sits derelict or vacant – provides a valuable resource in the protection of greenfield land from development. The State of Brownfield report 2020 is the latest in a series of CPRE reports on the brownfield register, which catalogues the number of brownfield sites available for development. The analysis clearly shows that the planning system is not slowing building rates. There is currently planning permission for more than half a million (565,564) units on brownfield land. In February 2020, the Local Government Association found that more than one million homes in total had been granted planning permission but not yet built. This means that brownfield sites and other unbuilt sites with planning permission could provide more than 1.5 million new homes – in short, we need not suffer the staggering loss of countryside that recent government proposals could bring about. Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, said: “These figures clearly show that the planning system is not what is ailing our housing market. “If there is enough land in the planning system to meet the government’s own housing targets, what will an overhaul of the planning system, with rushed and untested changes, really achieve? It’s clear the government has gravely misdiagnosed the problem – slow build-out rates and market-led housing are blocking the quality affordable housing that rural communities are crying out for. “But there is a real prize in brownfield – what says ‘build back better’ more than adopting a truly ‘brownfield first’ approach that will breathe new life into the long-forgotten and derelict areas in our towns, cities and villages? This approach will deliver huge benefits, building the affordable homes in areas where communities want to live, providing access to better transport links and amenities and services they need. “As things stand, the government’s proposed changes will result in a free-for-all, allowing big housebuilders to build what they like, where they like and when they like. Now more than ever is it vital that the government listens to local communities, promotes a genuinely ‘brownfield first’ policy and brings forward more brownfield sites for development so we can build more affordable, well-designed homes.” Many areas across England with high housing need also have a large amount of brownfield land ready for redevelopment. London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Sheffield have identified land available for regeneration that would provide almost half a million homes (458,587). To make best use of suitable brownfield land, CPRE is urging the government to introduce a genuine ‘brownfield first’ policy that ensures suitable previously developed or under-used land is prioritised for redevelopment over green spaces and countryside. Clearer definitions and guidelines must be given so that the registers act as a true pipeline, identifying all possible brownfield sites and recording their suitability for uses other than housing, including uses that protect the biodiversity or heritage value of sites where applicable.
To read Recycling Our Land: The State of Brownfield 2020, click here
Almost 70 members and supporters gathered at Lenham Community Centre on Friday (November 22) for CPRE Kent’s AGM. Sadly, our president Graham Clarke couldn’t make the event and delight us with his wonderful poems and anecdotes, but we were more than compensated for with a richly varied and engaging series of presentations. County director Hilary Newport delivered her annual report, chairman John Wotton gave a thought-provoking talk and vice-president Richard Knox-Johnston presented The Climate Change Challenge… but not before guest speaker Crispin Truman, CPRE chief executive, had updated us on progress made by the national organisation. Such events wouldn’t be the treasure they are without fine food and drink, of course, and most indulged in a splendid lunch and no small amount of conversation to round off a thoroughly satisfactory event. Minutes of the meeting will appear on this website soon, but in the meantime you can enjoy the presentations here: Director’s Report Chairman’s Talk Chief Executive’s Speech The Climate Change Challenge Monday, November 25, 2019