Britain’s green belt has shrunk by more than 1,000 hectares, during the 12 months to the end of March this year, official figures have revealed. The catalyst for this dramatic reduction was eight local planning authorities’ decision to adopt plans with revised green belt boundaries.
While approximately half as much land was cut from the green belt in England in 2015/16 than in the previous year, a total of just nine square kilometres was removed throughout the four years to March 2014. According to the figures, the green belt represented 13% of the land area of England at 31 March 2016.
Paul Miner, planning campaign manager at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: "While these figures show the decrease in green belt area is less than last year, it is still very much on the high end of the scale compared to previous years. The area of green belt lost this year is nearly double that in 2013/14, and seven times that lost in 2011/12.”
Over 75% of this lost green belt land is in the North West, with Knowlsey, Blackburn with Darwen, South Ribble Borough and Pendle Borough all drastically altering their planning proposals.
Across the Pennines, Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council cut 210 hectares of land from its green belt. In the West Midlands, Wychavon District Council removed 30 hectares and Tamworth Borough Council 10 hectares.
Revising its boundaries to remove five hectares of land, Oxford City Council was the only local authority in the South of England to cut into its green belt.
Miner said, “It is particularly concerning that Blackburn with Darwen council released green belt land on the grounds that available brownfield sites are unviable. This shows the real need for more government investment in brownfield development and urban regeneration.”
Conveyancing search firm, Search Acumen, also expressed concerns, labelling the recent drop in the volume of green belt land handed over for development as "worrying".
"We know that a great deal of land currently categorised as green belt isn’t particularly special, and could instead be used to create sustainable new developments to support growing urban areas and help to tackle the housing shortage," said director, Andy Somerville.
Ahead of the next Autumn Statement, it is as yet unclear as to whether this issue will be tackled at government level.