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Countryside being lost to housing

CPRE analysis of government data shows that greenfield land is under threat from new housing builds.

The Campaign for Rural England has undertaken analysis of the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government – The Land Use Change statistics 2016 to 2017 annual report, and has found worrying signs that the countryside is still be lost to housing despite promising signs of an increase in brownfield development.

With the amount of farmland, forests, gardens and greenfield land lost to housing development each year increasing by 58% over the past four years, the CPRE is keen to highlight the need for brownfield site use to increase.

CPRE’s analysis of an annual report highlighting changes in land use, shows that the area of ‘non-previously developed land’ lost to housing annually has continued to rise, from 2,105 hectares of land in 2013, to 3,332 hectares of land in 2017.

However, the data also shows that there has been an increase in the proportion of housing development taking place on brownfield land. The new government data shows that the proportion of land used for housing had increased to 44% brownfield, reflecting the positive steps that government has taken to encourage better use of previously developed land since the change of policy which removed the former ‘brownfield first’ policy from the planning rulebook.

The CPRE believes more could be done to encourage brownfield development over greenfield, and their analysis of the report shows housing development density is a problem, with an average of just 26 homes per hectare on greenfield – less than the minimum density of dwellings required by previous planning policy (30 homes per hectare), and even brownfield sites are only being developed at 40 homes per hectare.

Rebecca Pullinger, Planning Campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England said: “Whilst the increase in the proportion of development taking place on brownfield land is promising, the lack of reduction in greenfield development is alarming news for those who love the countryside.

“Without a clear, national policy that empowers councils to refuse applications for housing on greenfield land where suitable brownfield options exist, our cherished countryside will continue to be ripped up at an alarming rate.

‘Brownfield land is a renewable resource, with new sites constantly being brought forward. It is often quicker to develop than greenfield land, and the majority is in areas that people want to live, best suiting their lifestyle and needs. It also helps towards the regeneration of our towns and cities. It is a win-win for all.’

CPRE is calling for the introduction of an explicit policy in the revised National Planning Policy Framework that ensures suitable brownfield sites are developed before greenfield sites are released.

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