Concern at prices of homes on Green Belt sites

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HUNDREDS of thousands of houses are planned for Green Belt land, but the vast majority will not be “affordable” homes, campaigners have warned.

Some 425,000 homes are proposed for land released from the Green Belt under local and regional planning policies, analysis by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) suggests, up 150,000 from its last study in March 2016.

The assessment suggests that more than 70 per cent of those homes will not be expected to be “affordable” - with many representing low density development which feeds the high end of the market and does little to address the housing crisis.

The warning comes as ministers also face pressure from local authorities to take action on private sector rents, amid claims that aspiring homeowners are being caught in what Leeds City Council’s Judith Blake calls a “log jam” due to high house prices.

Less than one in six homes built on the Green Belt since 2009 outside the provisions of local plans was affordable, it found. Green Belt - the “countryside next door for 30 million people” which is designated to prevent urban sprawl - is under particular threat in the North West, West Midlands and South East, CPRE’s Green Belt Under Siege report revealed.

It also suggests that the Government’s “new homes bonus” initiative, which aims to relieve the housing crisis by incentivising local authorities to grant planning permission for new homes, will reward councils with £2.4 billion for the 425,000 homes.

The campaign group warned the initiative was rewarding development of Green Belt land which Government policy aims to protect, without providing much needed affordable housing.

Levels of planned affordable housing on Green Belt are particularly low in the North East and West Midlands, according to the report, which is based on local and city-regional planning policies and data from planning consultants Glenigan.

The Government should help councils build again and help fund genuinely affordable homes, including on small rural sites which can be well designed small scale development which provides affordable housing for local needs in the countryside, CPRE said.

The campaign group also wants a focus on building on brownfield land which is suitable for redevelopment in towns and cities.

Tom Fyans, director of campaigns and policy at CPRE, said: “Green Belt is being lost at an ever faster rate, yet the type of housing being built now or in the future will do very little to address the affordable housing crisis faced by many families and young people.

“We must not be the generation that sells off our precious Green Belt in the mistaken belief it will help improve the affordability of housing.

“The only ones set to benefit from future Green Belt development will be landowners and the big housebuilders, not communities in need of decent, affordable housing.”

He said protecting the Green Belt was part of solving the housing crisis, encouraging the focus on the more-than one million homes that could be built on suitable brownfield sites. Anne Baxendale, Shelter’s director of communications, policy and campaigns, said: “When the Green Belt land cherished by communities is released for housebuilding, let’s make sure we do it right and build the homes people actually need.”

The Local Government Association also warns today that the high costs of private sector rents are preventing a “generation” of young people from being able to save up for a deposit.

Judith Blakem housing spokesman and Leeds City Council, leader said: “With a shortage of homes with genuinely affordable rent, and young people struggling to have enough income left over to save for a deposit... it’s no wonder we have a rental logjam.”

A Government spokesman said they were committed to protect the Green Belt.