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Digest: Release of green belt reaches record level

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The amount of green belt land released for development has hit a record level, analysis of government figures show.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) said a total of 10 planning authorities removed just over 5,000 hectares of land from green belt boundaries in their local development plans, according to figures published by the Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government.

The CPRE has called on the government to “stop heaping pressure” on local authorities to meet “unrealistic” housing targets, which is leading to the loss of protected land.

CPRE planning campaigner Rebecca Pullinger said: “These statistics illustrate that since 2012, such changes are no longer exceptional. For too long housebuilders have been able to use land as a tool to manipulate and monopolise the market only to serve their own interests.”

LGC analysis in June showed that the proportion of new homes built in the green belt in 2016-17 had doubled when compared to 2015-16.

CPRE analysis in August also showed that the majority (72%) of new homes built on the green belt in 2016-17 were not defined as “affordable”.

Total land designated green belt areas in England was estimated by MHCLG statisticians at 1,629,510 hectares - around 12.5% of England’s total land area.

An MHCLG spokesperson said the government was committed to house-building, but it had “strengthened green belt protection” through the revised National Planning Policy Framework published earlier this year.

They added: “Under this planning authorities have to demonstrate they have exhausted all other reasonable options to meet development needs before even considering changes to the green belt and then evidence exceptional circumstances to justify development.”

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