More houses planned for Green Belts

26th Mar 2015

Houses planned for Green Belts are at the highest level since advent of Government’s flagship planning policy.

A new CPRE report reveals erosion of Green Belt despite cross-party political support. Fresh research by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) published today (27 March) shows that more houses are planned for Green Belt land than when the Government’s flagship planning reform - the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) - was implemented three years ago today [1].

The CPRE report, Green Belt under siege: the NPPF three years on, finds that over 219,000 houses are planned for England’s Green Belt, 60,000 more than in August 2013 when CPRE last made a count [2]. Government Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has taken action to address some threats to the Green Belt, in places such as Coventry and County Durham, but other areas remain under threat. In the Metropolitan Green Belt around London, houses planned have nearly tripled since August 2013 [3].

Prime Minister David Cameron recently declared that the preservation of Green Belt is ‘paramount’, and that development on Green Belt was at its lowest rate for 25 years [4]. In its analysis of nine English regions, however, the CPRE paper shows that three city or county regions – London, Oxfordshire and Nottinghamshire – as well as the wider South West region are facing an increasingly large number of houses on Green Belt land. It also shows that planning inspectors have signed off major releases of Green Belt in areas such as Leeds and Newcastle/Gateshead where there is ample brownfield land available. 

A recent report from CPRE and the University of the West of England, From wasted space to living spaces, showed that there is capacity for at least one million homes on suitable brownfield land, 194,000 of which could be built in the south east. It also showed that brownfield land is a renewable resource [5].

Green Belt designation was formally introduced in 1955 to prevent urban sprawl. Organisations from UN Habitat to the European Union have argued that unhindered urban sprawl causes economic and social dislocation [6].

Paul Miner, planning campaign manager at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), comments: “Green Belt provides the countryside next door for 30 million people, as well as farmland that will become ever more valuable. Ministers have quite rightly resisted the siren calls of some organisations to relax controls over development in the Green Belt. Yet, our new research shows that large scale development is already planned - despite existing protections, the availability of brownfield land and community objections. We need to strengthen Green Belt protection, not weaken it.

“We welcome recent interventions made by Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, to address growing local threats to the Green Belt, but Government does not and cannot always prevent inappropriate and unnecessary development. Whoever forms the next Government must look to improve Green Belt protection and focus development behind the one million homes we could build on brownfield land - for the benefit of both town and country.”


[1] Green Belt under siege: the NPPF three years on will be available on the CPRE website.
[2] Regional breakdowns:

Region and counties  Number of houses planned on Green Belt (March 2015)
Yorkshire    40,800
Cambridgeshire  1,885
Metropolitan (around London) 86,935
Oxfordshire    4,510
North East    8,000
North West     11,810
Nottinghamshire    13,800
South West (including the West of England county region)    16,245
West Midlands    35,550
Total    219,535


[3] Green Belt and the National Planning Policy Framework: 18 months on, Campaign to Protect Rural England, August 2013.
[4] David Cameron: I am a countryman and I will protect the Green Belt, The Daily Telegraph, 2 March 2015.
[5] From wasted space to living spaces, Campaign to Protect Rural England, November 2014.
[6] 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.