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Thousands of new homes could be built on green belt land in coming years

  • Consultation on whether green belt land should be used for starter homes
  • Comes as government announces two more garden towns in coming years
  • Campaigners warn building on green belt could make housing problems worse

Lee Boyce for Thisismoney.co.uk

A number of towns and cities in Britain could be set for rapid expansion in the coming years as the Government launches a consultation on relaxing green belt building.

The Department for Communities and Local Government is considering whether local communities should be able to allocate sites for small starter home developments in their green belt.

In what would be the biggest shake-up to planning protections for more than three decades, the ribbon of green belt land around towns and cities which prevents urban sprawl – bar in exceptional circumstances – could be built on more freely.

The consultation comes as Chancellor George Osborne outlined plans for 400,000 new homes before 2020 in his Autumn Statement last month.

George the builder: The Chancellor revealed plans to build 400,000 new homes before 2020 - but where will they go?

George the builder: The Chancellor revealed plans to build 400,000 new homes before 2020 – but where will they go?

Many will ask where these new builds will go – and this consultation gives a big hint that a number could be on green belt land.

In the Autumn Statement document, the Government outlined a £310million investment to deliver the first new garden city in nearly 100 years, at Ebbsfleet, Kent.

This is part of a wider £700million programme of regeneration at Barking Riverside, Brent Cross, Northstowe and Bicester Garden Town. Together these will support up to 60,000 new homes.

Yesterday, the government revealed plans for Didcot in Oxfordshire and North Essex, which will be home to new communities that between them are set to provide up to 50,000 new homes, supported by new infrastructure.

The proposals include plans for an additional 15,000 homes by 2031 in Greater Didcot Garden Town and new Garden Communities in North Essex with up to 35,000 new homes. 

Chancellor George Osborne’s planning adviser Lord Adonis says there is a need for major expansion of towns and cities such as Guildford, Reading, Norwich and Oxford, which he said should double in size.

Rapid expansion? Osborne's planning adviser recently said spots such as Guildford - pictured - should double in size

Rapid expansion? Osborne’s planning adviser recently said spots such as Guildford – pictured – should double in size

George Osborne has declared numerous times in the past that the Conservative party are ‘builders.’ But experts warn that Britain should be building around a quarter of a million properties a year to keep up with demand. 

Starter homes are designed for first-time buyers under the age of 40. They are sold at a 20 per cent discount from the market rate and are properties worth no more £250,000, or £450,000 in London. 

Developers are likely to be rubbing their hands in anticipation at the consultation – they have long desired protected green belt land to build on. 

A requirement that land in the green belt which is lost to builders has to be replaced is not contained in the potential new changes. Instead this will be optional for local communities.

Cameron and Osborne: The pair are commited to building houses in coming years

Cameron and Osborne: The pair are commited to building houses in coming years

The consultation said: ‘We consider that the current policy can hinder locally-led development and propose to amend national planning policy so that neighbourhood plans can allocate appropriate small-scale sites in the green belt specifically for start homes.’

The Prime Minister said in a speech yesterday that new ‘proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework’ would make a ‘reality’ of his plan to ensure more affordable homes were built.

However, campaigners have raised concerns about government proposals to open up the green belt for development as part of plans to build hundreds of thousands of new homes.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England warned that the changes would make housing problems worse.

Paul Miner, the CPRE’s planning campaign manager, told the Daily Telegraph’s Christopher Hope: ‘The current policy isn’t working, but these proposals will make things worse. It could see a lot more planning battles in the countryside over coming years.’

Clive Betts, chairman of the Commons Communities and Local Government committee, said the consultation was ‘very worrying’.

He said: ‘I have no problem with a proper review of the green belt to see whether it is all appropriate or whether more should be added in. But that is how it should be done, not as a bit of an opportunity to cherry pick the best sites by developers, which this sounds like it could develop into.’ 

The consultation started yesterday and will run until Monday 25 January 2016. 

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