Big Issue Vendor

Homes built on the green belt are not solving the affordable housing crisis

Last year 72 per cent of homes built on greenfield land in England were unaffordable by the government’s definition

Up to 460,000 homes are in the works on land released from the green belt – but the percentage of affordable homes is continuing to fall.

The protected rural areas remain under severe pressure, according to a new report from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), despite government pledges to protect it.

Moving green belt boundaries during local plan reviews makes it easier for local authorities to release land for housing – despite the move only being intended to occur under exceptional circumstances.

And the planned 460,000 homes will do little to increase the number of affordable dwellings, say CPRE, with 72 per cent of the homes built on greenfield land failing to match the government’s definition of affordability.

Once they are built, the percentage of unaffordable homes meeting this criteria will hit 27 per cent, four lower than the recommended average target of 31 per cent.

Green belts, introduced after World War II to prevent the growing cities from intruding into the countryside, make up 13 per cent of England.

Tom Fyans, director of campaigns and policy at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “We are being sold a lie by many developers. As they sell off and gobble up the green belt to build low density, unaffordable housing, young families go on struggling to afford a place to live. The affordable housing crisis must be addressed with increasing urgency, while acknowledging that far from providing the solution, building on the green belt only serves to entrench the issue.

“The government is failing in its commitment to protect the green belt – it is being eroded at an alarming rate. But it is essential, if the green belt is to fulfil its main purposes and provide 30 million of us with access to the benefits of the countryside, that the redevelopment of brownfield land is prioritised, and green belt protection strengthened.”

CPRE’s reasoning behind the use of brownfield land – which has already been developed but is now in a state of disrepair or derelict – is down to the space to accommodate more than one million homes, according to the report.

They are calling for this land to be prioritised ahead of greenfield land, which MHCLG insist they are protecting.

A Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “We are clear that building the homes our country needs does not mean tearing up our countryside.

“Last year the number of new homes built was the highest in a decade, and only 0.02 per cent of the green belt was developed for residential use.

“We are adding more certainty to the planning system and our new planning rulebook strengthens national protections for the green belt, and says that councils may only alter boundaries in exceptional circumstances once they have looked at all other options.”

Image: Ben Cremin/Flickr