Government: honour your Green Belt pledge
CPRE has just published a new briefing and map that highlights major new threats to England’s Green Belts - and we're calling on the Government to honour its pledge from two years ago to 'maintain protection of the Green Belt.'
The threats include proposals for over 80,000 new houses, new roads, open cast coal mines, airport expansion, golf courses and industrial parks – amounting to the development of a new town greater than the size of Slough over the next twenty years. In South Yorkshire, we are against these two threats to the Green Belt.
Barnsley Council is consultating on proposals for 1,200 dwellings and 500 hectares of warehousing. It is proposing 1,200 new large executive dwellings, and at least some of these will be delivered through the use of Green Belt. The recently adopted Core Strategy, by contrast, only allowed Green Belt land to be released for employment allocations. In addition Barnsley has significantly increased the amount of Green Belt land for employment: 360 hectares up to 500 hectares, spread across a number of sites, in particular Goldthorpe in the Dearne Valley. The proposals (the Sites and Places development plan document) are under consultation until 28 September 2012.
The FARRRS (Finningley and Rossington Regeneration Route Scheme) project was approved by the council in June 2012. It covers 89 ha of countryside, most of it in the Green Belt. It is intended to help bring about further new housing and business park development in the area surrounding the road.
Two years on
In July 2010 Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, announced that he would abolish regional planning, so that local people could better protect Green Belts around towns and cities across the country. However, CPRE has found that, two years on, the level of threat remains.
New national planning policies require local authorities to allocate more than five years’ worth of building land for new housing. In many cases it appears that Government Planning Inspectors are putting pressure on local authorities to allow building in the Green Belt to meet this requirement. Government plans to reduce further national planning guidance could lead to Ministers no longer scrutinising major proposals for development in the Green Belt.
The Green Belt is the most popular planning policy in England and the envy of the world. It helps regenerate our cities and stops them sprawling into rural areas. As a result, no one is ever too far from true, green English countryside.
In times of economic slowdown, politicians can sometimes be tempted by the false promise of an easy construction boom. But destroying the countryside is not the path to lasting economic prosperity. Sustainable economic improvement can only come from the sort of urban regeneration that has already done much to rejuvenate many of our largest cities.
Building on the Green Belt is often justified by claiming that there is a shortage of other land available for development, such as previously developed ‘brownfield’ land. However, Government figures show that the amount of brownfield land becoming available for re-development is far outstripping the rate at which it is being used and there is enough available for 1.5 million new homes. It is vital that the Government steps in to ensure ‘smart growth’, which focuses investment and development within existing urban areas, rather than allowing the unnecessary loss of Green Belt land.
Local authorities should set housing targets consistent with local need, protecting the Green Belt and regenerating brownfield land, rather than relying on unrealistically high requirements once imposed by regional plans. Above all, Ministers should stick to their commitments to protect the Green Belt, including by actively monitoring major planning applications in the Green Belt as well as the proportion of new housing on brownfield sites.
Time for action
Ministers have consistently maintained that they value the Green Belt and want to see it protected. Now is the time to put these words into action.
CPRE is also publishing a new campaign guide which is aimed at helping local people to protect the Green Belt. The campaign guide explains the key aspects of the new national planning policy, cuts through the jargon of local plan reviews and developer proposals, and provides key campaigning tips.
We are also encouraging people to write to Eric Pickles and ask him to stand up for the Green Belt.