Housing threatens to gobble up London green belt

Green Belt land around London faces unprecedented development pressure with proposals for building almost 18,000 homes on virgin countryside.
Residents of Letchworth, Hertfordshire, are fighting plans for a 1,000-home extension to the garden city on green belt land — a proposal being considered by North Hertfordshire district council.
In Surrey, Waverley borough council is consulting on plans for 8,500 new homes on green belt around Farnham, Godalming, Cranleigh and Haslemere, while Chiltern district council is considering declassifying part of its green belt as it tries to find sites for up to 2,900 homes in the next 12 years.
Tewkesbury Borough Council has already thrown its weight behind plans to build 1,500 homes on 190 acres of open land near the village of Brockworth, Gloucestershire, six miles south west of Cheltenham.
The council - which has had previous attempts to refuse planning permission for other house building projects on Green Belt land overturned by Government planning inspectors on the basis that the area badly needs new homes -  has concluded that the “benefits, when taken as a whole, outweigh the harm of the Green Belt”.
Meanwhile Chiltern District Council is considering declassifying sections of its Green Belt as it struggles to find sites to build up to 2,900 new homes over the next 12 years – a quota set by the Government. And in Oxfordshire there is fury at plans to build 4,000 homes on a site close to the Oxford Science Park, south west of the city.
The Green Belt was created after the Second World War to prevent urban sprawl around Britain’s towns and cities. But despite its protected status it is now under threat. Last year permission for some 5,600 homes to be built on the Green Belt was granted.
Last month Jeff Fairburn, chief executive of Persimmon, Britain’s biggest developer, called on the Government to allow more building on the Green Belt. Savills calculates that the shortfall of homes in the south of England alone will reach 160,000 within five years, unless the rate of house building can be increased.
Paul Miner, the senior planning campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, explained that the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework introduced in 2012 has put pressure on councils to calculate how many new homes they need – and then find somewhere to build them. There is plenty of brownfield land available but developers prefer to build on open Green Belt land as it is easier and less expensive, than building on inner city and industrial sites.
Mayor Boris Johnson’s London Infrastructure Plan, published in July, ruled out building on GLA-controlled Green Belt land before 2025 arguing that there are enough brownfield sites in the capital for around 50,000 new homes each year. However the mayor does not have control over parts of the belt which fall into counties like Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

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