Housing Specification Blog

Britain’s Green Belt Under Threat

August 28, 2012 Alexandra Blakeman Planning & Legislation

Countryside campaigners are concerned that the rural areas around Britain’s biggest conurbations are under threat. The Green belt, which was introduced in 1947 to protect rural areas from urban encroachment, could be at the mercy of new build planning targets.

Some of Britain’s most protected land is at risk. Click on image for original source.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which was published in March pledged to retain the status of the Green belt. Six months later, it is rumoured that the government are considering plans to build 81,000 new homes, mines and airport extensions on some of the country’s most protected land.

Amid suggestions that planning laws could be relaxed to boost growth, The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) have warned that this “is not the path to lasting economic prosperity”.

Accounting for 12% of British land, the Green belt ensures that our countryside is close and accessible to those living in the most built up areas of the country. It is a valuable safeguarding against urban sprawl.

New national planning policies require local authorities to dedicate more than five years worth of building land for new housing. In order to meet these targets, the CPRE have said that local officials will be pressured into considering Green Belt areas for new developments.

Speaking for BBC News, CPRE senior planning officer Paul Miner said the government should look to regenerate urban areas rather than build on unspoilt green space.

“It [the green belt] 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.”

Mr Miner said that “sustainable economic improvement” was only possible by “the sort of urban regeneration that has already done much to rejuvenate many of our largest cities.”

The CPRE have suggested that there is sufficient brownfield land available to build 1.5m new homes. These spaces are often abandoned or under used industrial sites in need of regeneration.

A strong Green belt is able to better assist with urban regeneration, and encourage growth in smaller towns and communities.

By disregarding their commitment to the British countryside, the government risk the long term stability and conservation brought about by the Green belt policy. Preserved land should not be used as a quick fix solution to the country’s large scale housing crisis. The Green belt boundary was established to protect rural spaces and to define the edges of our biggest cities, ensuring that areas on urban parameters didn’t dwindle into degradation and miss use.

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