Ministers facing calls to ramp up protections for greenbelts amid concerns over lack of affordable housing

Campaigners are calling for fresh assurances from the government
Campaigners are calling for fresh assurances from the government
Have your say

The Government is facing calls to toughen up protections for the country's greenbelts, as campaigners warn that housebuilding on this “precious” land is doing little to solve the affordability crisis.

According to research by the CPRE, councils are due to consider plans for more than 420,000 new homes on green belts over the coming year, but less than a third of these are expected to be “affordable”.

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 a “logjam” due to high house prices.

Research by the LGA show that one in seven renters are now spending half their income on rent, but face deposits worth up to 85 percent of their annual pay.

The latest official house price figures, published in April, reveal prices in England increased by 5.7 percent over the last year, with first time buyers in Yorkshire looking at an average cost of £132,973.

The current government has repeatedly pledged to do more to help people get onto the property ladder, and earlier this year set out its long-awaited housing white paper to “fix the broken housing market”.

The document included a number of policies to boost the supply of new housing, including the “streamlining” of planning laws and the creation of new brownfield registers.

It also reaffirmed the Government's commitment to protecting the greenbelt, while allowing for some flexibility around development in “exceptional circumstances”.

However, the CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England) has raised fresh concerns about greenbelt policy, after an analysis of local and regional plans revealed a surge in proposed housing developments on this land over the coming year.

According to the study, there are proposals for 424,672 homes on greenbelt land for 2017 – including 55,000 in the Yorkshire and Humber area – compared to just 272,694 the year before.

Of these, it calculates that just 28 percent fall into the category of affordable housing, such as shared ownership properties or lower-than-market rent.

It therefore suggests that ministers are mistaken if they see “sell[ing] off our precious greenbelt” as a means of helping communities “in need of decent, affordable housing”.

“Protecting the greenbelt is part of, not a barrier to, solving the housing crisis,” said the charity's director of campaigns Tom Fyans.

“It encourages us to focus on the 1 million plus homes we can build on suitable brownfield sites, and avoid the environmental costs of urban sprawl... The Government must do more to protect it”

The LGA 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.

The organisation's research shows one in seven renters spend half their income on rent, while the average mortgage deposit in an area like Yorkshire is 55 percent of annual pay, increasing to 85 percent in the South East.

“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 ,” said housing spokesman and Leeds council leader Judith Blake.

“Only an increase of all types of housing – including those for affordable or social rent – will solve our housing shortage.”

Responding to the CPRE report, a Government spokesman said they “do not recognise the figures”

“This Government is committed to protect the Green Belt. Only in exceptional circumstances may councils alter Green Belt boundaries,” they said.