Housing target row: Government claims protecting green belt a 'priority'
The Government has stated protecting the green belt is a “priority” after responding to accusations that its housing targets are causing a “destruction” of the countryside.
Councils across the country are currently identifying land within its districts to meet aspirational Government targets of building 300,000 homes a year.
Locally, councils across Hertfordshire have been putting together a new vast planning document called a Local Plan which primarily sets about allocating which pieces of land are most appropriate to build new homes on.
One of the country’s leading environmental groups, The Countryside Charity, says local authorities in Hertfordshire are allocating 54,537 new homes on green belt land in the county, which is on top of around 17,000 that have been approved or are being built.
Residents fighting to protect the green belt at a protest in Carpenders Park on August 10
A spokesperson for The Countryside Charity said: “Building 72,000 new homes on Hertfordshire’s countryside will not solve our housing problem. Our research nationally shows that only around 10 per cent of new homes that are built in the green belt are considered affordable.
“This destruction of our countryside is counter to the commitments given by the Government to protect the green belt and to national planning policy which affords protection to our green belt.”
Campaigner David Zerny, who lives near Kings Langley, is another person fighting to protect the green belt. He is pictured in Chorleywood
Currently, and in line with national planning policies, developers must demonstrate “very special circumstances” to receive permission from local councils to build in the green belt.
However the Countryside Charity, formerly known as the Campaign to Protect Rural England, says there is a “growing disconnect” between recent Government statements and the application of planning policy at a local level.
The organisation has pointed towards the Government’s decision to stick with basing its housing targets on 2014 data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
It has called on councils to set local plans using the latest ONS data and exclude green belt from its allocation sites, and also called for MPs and council leaders to press the Government to clarify planning policy.
According to council papers published by Dacorum Borough Council in July, on 21 June this year during a parliamentary debate on planning decisions, the housing minister restated the Government’s “commitment” to protecting the green belt, explicitly stating local authorities should not develop on the green belt, except for in exceptional circumstances.
The papers add the minister said the local plan should “recognise the green belt as a constraint on numbers”.
However, the Dacorum papers also referred to a recent decision made by a Government planning inspector to overruled a council’s decision to refuse around 100 homes on green belt land in Colney Heath, near St Albans – prompting Dacorum Borough Council to pause its local plan process.
Kings Langley & District Residents’ Association chairman Gary Ansell on land west of the Kings Langley Estate. This is greenbelt land in Kings Langley put forward for 893 homes plus a primary school in the local plan
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