Countryside campaigners have called on local authorities in Yorkshire to reconsider controversial plans to build more than 11,000 homes on the region’s green belt land.
Large increases in Yorkshire’s population are expected over the next decade and Leeds City Council has said it could be forced to release green belt sites to meet the need for housing.
But the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has said it is “appalled” by the plans and has vowed to challenge the Leeds proposals if they are approved at a meeting of senior councillors next Friday.
Local authorities across the region met on Thursday to discuss plans to ensure sufficient land is available for housebuilding over the next 16 years and identify areas suitable for development.
In Leeds, it is predicted 70,000 homes will be needed to cope with a population estimated to increase from 755,136 in 2010 to 859,583 by 2028.
The authority wants to see brownfield land developed as a priority but 11,000 homes could be built on prime sites.
West Yorkshire secretary John Denham said: “I’m absolutely appalled. Green belt land was built to protect against urban sprawl and there are plenty of brownfield sites on which to build – particularly near Kirklees and Bradford.
“We will be protesting very strongly and after the decision is made next Friday – and if the plans are put through – we will certainly be challenging the deed. We are trying to persuade the council that all suitable brownfield sites should be used before green belt sites.
“The problem is developers themselves aren’t so interested in brownfield sites because they can not make as much money as they can on green belt sites.
He added: “We question why we need so many new houses. We are not against new houses, it’s important that we have them, but we question the number.”
The warnings come only weeks after the Yorkshire Post revealed tensions between developers and the region’s local authorities, which are failing to meet affordable home targets.
Simon Bowens, Yorkshire and Humber campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: “There is a housing problem but it’s not going to be resolved through building on green belt land. There’s a lot of brownfield land that should be used instead.
“I would question whether the transport infrastructure is in place for a lot of these green belt sites.”
He also warned that pollution levels could rise and the environment may suffer if green belt sites are developed.
“There are issues over whether the biodiversity that is present in these areas would be protected,“ he said. “Carbon emissions are also an issue.”
Other parts of Yorkshire face similar pressures. Over the next 15 years Ryedale estimates it needs to build 200 homes a year and Bradford says it needs an extra 45,500 homes by 2028.
The Country and Land Association (CLA) said that some development on green belt land was inevitable if people were to continue living and working in the Yorkshire countryside.
Regional director Dorothy Fairburn said: “There is a desperate need for homes and work spaces in rural Yorkshire and, far too often, young people are being forced to leave the villages they were born and raised in just to find work and affordable homes.
“Our members have been the guardians of much of Yorkshire’s iconic rural landscape for hundreds of years and will continue to do so. But we also need to ensure that Yorkshire has a living and working countryside, which will inevitably mean some development on green belt land.”
Northern Countryside Alliance regional director Simon Hamlyn said: “Green belt has long been abused and ignored by local authorities and has moved away from its original function – we believe there should be a whole scale review of the policy as the current system has resulted in a piecemeal approach. “