More than 120,000 homes planned in London green belt, report finds

Out-Law News | 15 Sep 2016 | 1:06 pm | 1 min. read

A joint report from campaign groups the London Green Belt Council and the Campaign to Protect Rural England has found that more than 120,000 homes are planned in the London Metropolitan Green Belt (LMGB).

The report, named 'Safe Under Us?' (48-page / 911 KB PDF) said despite assurances from new communities secretary Sajid Javid that "the green belt is absolutely sacrosanct", "unclear national planning guidance and confusing government messages" were putting councils under pressure to allocate development sites on green belt land.

The authors found there were plans for the development of 203 sites within the LMGB, including 123,528 new homes and that green belt land was under additional pressure from infrastructure such as schools and roads.

The report said the government was putting pressure on councils to deliver housing targets that had been "inflated by unrealistic growth targets, forcing councils to give up green belt land". It said "general pressures are now being accepted as 'exceptional [circumstances]'" which can justify the release of land from the green belt by councils through the local plan-making process.

The authors claimed 302,000 hectares of green belt land were under threat in Hertfordshire, Surrey and Essex alone. The entire LMGB contains 514,040 hectares of land.

The recommendations put forward by the campaign groups included: "a moratorium on all inappropriate development in the green belt"; ensuring the redevelopment of previously developed land is prioritised; and amending planning guidance to state that "general pressures for unmet housing need does not constitute de facto 'exceptional circumstances'".

The report also recommended financial sanctions to deter land-banking and the introduction of time limits to ensure development is built out after planning permission has been granted.

Planning expert Richard Ford of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: "This report is a kick back against a lot of pressure and lobbying for some release of green belt and MOL land in and around London to help cater for the growth targets. However, the report does not provide evidence that the growth targets are actually unrealistic and this is key to the case for release."