Region’s planners failing to protect Green Belt

NEARLY half of all applications to build on Green Belt land in the past five years have been approved by Yorkshire local authorities, with conservationists warning more of the region’s green spaces will be lost if controversial new planning laws are implemented.

Figures obtained by the Yorkshire Post show just over 45 per cent of applications to build on Green Belt land received by planning departments at local councils have been given the green light since 2005.

At least 7,199 applications were approved during that time and this number could be even higher, with several local authorities – including those for Bradford, Hull and Calderdale – unable to produce data on planning applications received.

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Green Belt land is defined as an area set aside to remain as an open space to protect the land around larger urban centres from urban sprawl.

The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show the applications range from housing developments to changes to existing structures and come as the Government contemplates some of the most far-reaching changes to the planning system in a generation.

The National Planning Policy Framework document which is out for consultation has provoked the ire of campaigners.

A spokeswoman for the Government denied the changes would mean any more development would be sanctioned on Green Belt land but campaigners disagree, saying much more building on the country’s green spaces will take place if it is implemented.

Claire Graves of the National Trust, which has been amongst those leading the change against the proposed planning shake-up, told the Yorkshire Post: “If the NPPF goes ahead we will see even more of these applications on Green Belt land and more of them will be successful.

“We have made a specific request for Brownfield land to be considered first and for this to be adopted within the planning framework.

“In some places Greenfield and Greenbelt land will be the right place for development and the planning system needs to make these decisions based on logic.

“As it stands we are looking at seeing a system being adopted which will see planning by appeal. A lot of developers we have been speaking to are also calling for clarity of the situation.”

The Campaign to Protect Rural England has been lobbying against the proposals and in a survey last month claimed the majority of local authorities questioned, including Leeds, York, and East Riding Councils, most shared concerns over the proposed changes.

Jack Neill-Hall, from the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “The draft regulations that we have seen during the public consultation will unquestionably lead to more building.

“The Government has been clear that it wishes to protect places like national parks from building but regulations need to improve in order to protect them.”

He added: “Sixty per cent of England is just fairly normal countryside, home to farms and areas for walking in, and it will have no protection. Looking at the new regulations it will be very difficult for councils to prevent building.

“We would like to see developers forced to work with people to create good quality projects so they can build and create what local people need and want.

“We do need more housing, but it needs to be build with the participation of local people, not on what works out best for the bottom-line.”

Sarah Lee, head of policy at the Countryside Alliance, said: “We have been saying for some time that Green Belt land needs protecting. Clearly the FOI shows how much work there is to be done.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Communities and Local Government, the government department drawing up the NPPF, said: “Green Belt protections are maintained in full. The draft Framework is clear that inappropriate development that is harmful to the green belt should not be approved except in very special circumstances.”