Local councils are on course to build houses on an area of Green Belt land bigger than Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton combined, countryside campaigners warn in research published today.
A study of local authorities’ long-term Structure Plans by the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) shows that nearly three million more homes are needed in England and suggests that councils’ willingness to allocate precious green land instead of brownfield sites will remove tracts of countryside from counties such as Kent, Devon and Lancashire.
The study suggests that more than 431 sq km (166 sq miles) are earmarked for development, though the final area of countryside consumed could be greater. The CPRE’s calculation of the land needed is based on achieving 25 homes per hectare, though some developers manage fewer than 20.
Inevitably, the green land hardest hit will be in the Southeast, where up to a third of the new homes are needed. Surrey needs at least 2,300 homes a year and Essex more than 5,000. Hampshire must build 80,290 homes by 2011 and identify land for another 14,000.
Thousands Of New Homes Planned by Jack Jay
A £22bn plan to build new homes and improve local communities over a three-year period has been announced.
The Government has said £5bn of the total sum will go towards providing affordable housing. Thousands of new properties will be built in target zones – Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, Ashford in Kent, Stansted in Essex and the Thames Gateway in east London. Ways of transforming run-down communities in the north of England are also part of the package.
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott presenting the Sustainable Communities Plan to the House of Commons described it as a “real step change in our approach”. Mr Prescott said there is high demand for housing in the South East but housing abandonment in the North and the Midlands brought about by the demise of sustainable communities.
David Davis for the Conservatives, said the policy appeared to “bulldoze the North and concrete the South”.
Mr Prescott called the plan a “framework for the long term”.
New homes planned for Milton Keynes
“We are investing £22bn over the next three years to tackle the most urgent pressures.”
He asserted that tackling the housing shortage would not be achieved at the expense of the green belt.
“All new development, commercial and residential, will use previously developed land where available, we must prevent urban sprawl over the green belt,” he said.
Mr Prescott said that last year over 60% of new housing development was on brownfield land.
The Council for the Protection of Rural England fears the plan could unleash a wave of new urban sprawl, especially in the South East.
“We accept that there is a need for new housing, and we accept that some of it will be in the South East,” Nick Schoon of the CPRE said.
“But we have a general worry about more and more of the countryside disappearing under housing estates and concrete. Countryside is precious to all of us and it is disappearing.”