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Statistics point to a small decline in green belt area

Words: Laura Edgar
Green land

There was a 3,290-hectare (0.2 per cent) decrease in the area of green belt land between 31 March 2018 and 31 March 2019, according to statistics published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

The total area of the green belt in England is 1,621,150 hectares, which equates to 12.4 per cent of England’s land.

The ministry puts the loss down to the adoption of local plans.

In 2018/19, 13 planning authorities adopted new local plans, which resulted in a net decrease in green belt land in the year to March 2019, compared with a year earlier. These are:

  • Barnsley;
  • Bromley;
  • Burnley;
  • Cambridge;
  • East Hertfordshire;
  • Fylde;
  • Gedling;
  • Kirklees;
  • Poole;
  • Rotherham;
  • South Cambridgeshire;
  • South Staffordshire; and
  • Wyre.

England has a land area of 13,046,130 hectares, of which 8 per cent is developed.

Taking into consideration overlaps, the release states that just over 40 per cent of England – or 5.6 million hectares – is protected against development by one or more environmental designations, such as green belt, national parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

Jason Lowes, partner in the planning team at Rapleys, said: “What these statistics show is that any fears of wholesale erosion of the green belt are simply misplaced. The truth on the ground is that while more local authorities are releasing green belt land in comparison to last year’s figures, the overall proportion of green belt which is being released has shrunk and local authorities are evidently and correctly taking a stringent approach to assessing what parcels of land can be used for development.”

Lowes also issued a reminder that not all green belt and is green, but instead sites could be brownfield or landfill. He explained that some is being released and designated as urban open space.  

“At the same time, there is a clear push from government to deliver more housing and appropriate sites within the green belt can be a part of the solution. If the recent noises coming out of Westminster, including via the housing minister Esther McVey, indicates a further hardening of the already far-reaching protections afforded to the green belt, then central and local governments may find it even more challenging to meet their housing targets.”

Local Planning Authority Green Belt: England 2018/19 can be found on the UK Government website (pdf).

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