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Mapped: The areas building the most new homes on green belt

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The proportion of new homes built in the green belt in 2016-17 doubled compared to the previous year, Ministry of Communities, Housing & Local Government data shows.

The proportion of those new homes built on previously developed land also decreased from 57% to 51% year-on-year.

In 2016-17, 4% of all new homes were built on green belt which is up from 2% in 2015-16. A breakdown of the ministry’s data, which was published last week and does not include actual numbers, shows large variations between individual local authorities.

The national picture (source: MHCLG)

The top ten councils building in the Green Belt in 2016-17 (MHCLG data) 

Local authorityProportion of new homes created in green belt (2016-17)Proportion of total local authority land located in green belt

Epping Forest DC



South Staffordshire Council



South Bucks DC



Purbeck DC



Tandridge DC



Rochford DC



Brentwood BC



Three Rivers DC



Windsor & Maidenhead RBC



Chiltern DC



One notable outlier on the list of councils which saw the biggest proportion of new homes built on green belt is Purbeck DC in Dorset. Despite only 20% of Purbeck’s total area lying in green belt, the same proportion of new homes was built on such land as South Bucks DC and South Staffordshire Council which are covered with 87% and 79% green belt respectively.

Purbeck’s leader Gary Suttle (Con) said the council had been forced to build in these areas due to a “pressing need for more affordable homes” which had to be balanced against “very constrained” space issues.

Cllr Suttle said: “Purbeck has an adopted local plan that includes some housing allocations in what was previously green belt land. Given the significant biodiversity constraints in parts of the district, when examining the local plan, the independent examiner agreed with the council’s proposed development strategy that included releasing some green belt land. The sites were next to existing towns and villages and in the district and therefore well served by a range of facilities and services. None of the developments in previously designated green belt land has led to towns merging with one another.”

Three Rivers DC, Brentwood BC, and Epping Forest DC all challenged the figures, which are provided to the ministry by Ordnance Survey, saying that they did not tally with their own planning departments’ analyses.

Three Rivers DC said only six homes were built in the green belt in 2016-17, amounting to only 4% of its total output for that year.

Similarly, Brentwood BC reported that only 14% of new homes were built on green belt land, not the 33% reported in the ministry’s dataset.

Meanwhile, LGC understands the reason Epping Forest DC’s high percentage was due to the regeneration of a brownfield site that was located opposite an underground station inside the green belt.

A “sensible approach”

A spokesperson for Epping Forest DC said: “The green belt is extremely important to us and our planning policies are heavily geared towards its protection, which is in line with national policy.

green belt

green belt

Source: UrbanImages / Alamy Stock Photo

Farthing Downs, an area of open space owned by the City of London & forming part of the green belt land to the south of London. (Credit: UrbanImages / Alamy Stock Photo)

“Previously developed sites and other sustainable sites within the green belt do come up from time to time. With so much demand for new homes and so little space outside the green belt, it is important to take a sensible approach to these sites when the opportunities arise. Going forward, the emerging local plan is proposing further green belt releases, including sites around Harlow which form part of the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town.”

Epping Forest’s approach appears to be in line with the draft National Planning Policy Framework which recommends “first consideration should be given to land which has been previously-developed or which is well-served by public transport” when deciding whether to build on green belt land.

The draft NPPF also allows brownfield land in the green belt to be used for affordable housing.

The issue of where and how to build properties, including affordable homes, was a repeated theme in many of the responses LGC received from councils.

A spokesperson for Rochford DC said it had reallocated “in the region of 1% of the council’s designated green belt land” to deliver homes and jobs locally.

“Rochford DC is a proactive local planning authority which has always effectively planned for the future needs of its communities,” the spokesperson said.

An MHCLG spokesman said: “Last year the number of new homes built was the highest in a decade, and 96% were built on non-green belt land.

“Our revised National Planning Policy Framework, on which we have consulted, reinforces green belt safeguards while giving councils more tools to build the homes their communities need, including through higher density.”



Mapped: The areas building the most new homes on green belt

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