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Campaigners reveal huge threat to London’s Green Belt

Words: Huw Morris

Government housing and planning policies are posing an ‘unprecedented’ threat to London’s green belt, according to research.

A joint study by the London Green Belt Council and the Campaign for Rural England’s London branch reveals that plans for 203 sites include proposals for 123,528 homes.

Within the 42 planning authorities surveyed, covering nearly 84 per cent of all London’s green belt, 94 per cent of the proposed homes are on sites allocated in local plans.

In Surrey, 121,000 hectares are under threat as well as 97,000 ha in Essex and 84,000 ha in Hertfordshire.

The report said the government’s planning framework allows building on green belt land only in “exceptional” circumstances. But it blamed “unclear national guidance and confusing government messages” for causing councils to believe they must meet higher housing targets to secure approval of their local plans.

“Promises were made in the Conservative general election manifesto that the green belt would be ‘safe under us’,” said London Green Belt Council chair Richard Knox-Johnston. “However, councils are telling their residents that there is no alternative but to build in the green belt.

“Our evidence shows that in spite of the government’s promise, councils are responding to a series of national messages and policies which forces them to release green belt land to receive financial incentives and avoid sanctions.

“The system is clearly not working and is not protecting the green belt. It seems likely that the government’s target of two million homes by 2020 will not be met due to land banking and hoarding. By not taking action to unlock the land which already has planning permission, more pressure is being put on green belt land.”

“Safe Under Us?” An investigation into widespread threats from house building in the London Metropolitan Green Belt is available here (pdf).