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Save the green belt campaign aims to halt ‘unrestricted city sprawl’

Save the green belt campaign aims to halt ‘unrestricted city sprawl’

🕔03.Aug 2015

The Campaign to Protect Rural England has released the findings of an opinion poll that will come as no surprise at all – most people believe the green belt should not be built on.

An Ipsos Mori poll marking the 60th anniversary of green belt becoming Government policy found that nearly two-thirds of those surveyed were opposed to any development at all in protected parts of the countryside.

CPRE backed up the poll with a letter to The Times from various luminaries including the actress Joanna Lumley, Lord Bragg, the environmentalist Lord Porritt and Birmingham-based poet Benjamin Zephaniah urging the Government to prevent “the further unrestricted sprawl of the great cities”.

Britain’s acute housing shortage and recent confirmation that the Government will intervene if necessary to force councils to build more homes on brownfield sites appears to have sparked the campaign. As CPRE notes, Ministers insist green belt land will only be built on in exceptional circumstances, but evidence on the ground suggests that exceptions are quickly becoming the rule.

There are, according to CPRE, plans to build 225,000 home on the green belt while formerly developed brownfield land capable of accommodating a million homes is ignored .

Birmingham, clearly one of the sprawling great cities, has its eyes on building up to 6,000 on green belt land in Sutton Coldfield and Bromsgrove. The proposal was recently backed by an independent planning Inspector following a public examination of the Birmingham Development Plan.

The minimum number of new properties required to meet Birmingham’s demand for new housing up to 2031 was increased by the Inspector from 84,000 to 89,000 to reflect the latest population projections.

The city council’s claim that sufficient space in Birmingham can only be identified to build 51,000 new homes was accepted by the Inspector, leaving a shortfall of 37,900 homes which will have to be built on the other side of the city boundary in Worcestershire, Staffordshire and Warwickshire.

The CPRE poll demonstrated strong support for the green belt across all age ranges and backing for protection was just as strong among people renting homes as those that own their homes.

CPRE is urging the Government to:

  • Be more specific on the limited circumstances in which green belt boundaries can be changed through local plans.
  • Call in or direct local authorities to refuse damaging developments in the green belt that are not identified in existing local or neighbourhood plans.
  • Target public funding, through organisations such as Natural England and Local Enterprise Partnerships, to increase the quality of and access to green belt.

CPRE says it aims to show why people value the green belt by inviting the public to submit photos and stories to a digital wall showing how they use and experience it, and will also publish a ‘myth-busting’ document to demonstrate why arguments to build on the Green Belt are misguided.

Shaun Spiers, CPRE chief executive, said:

We know that the green belt is loved by the general public and supported by politicians of all parties. Yet despite this, it is under greater threat than it has been in its 60 year history.

Over 200,000 new houses are already planned for green belt land, and a growing number of think-tanks, developers and business groups are gunning for the green belt, arguing with very little evidence that we need to build on it in order to tackle the country’s housing crisis.

The green belt is a fantastic British success story of which we should all be proud. It has both protected countryside and aided the regeneration of towns and cities across England. It is good for people’s well-being and quality of life; good for nature and wildlife; and it provides us with much of the food that we eat.

Of course the country needs more homes, but we can get them without trashing the green belt.

We want both national and local politicians to make clear that they recognise the importance of the green belt, and to commit to ensuring that planning authorities secure its protection.

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