Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) have some of the strongest protections in planning law to safeguard their scenery for future generations.
But according to data from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), there has been a 129 per cent increase in developments planned on greenfield land, putting them at risk of “rapid and reckless” projects.
Two of England’s 34 designated AONBs are in Yorkshire – Nidderdale, to the east of the Vale of York, and the Howardian Hills, which surround Castle Howard.
In its Beauty Still Betrayed report, CPRE has warned that the developments are at the cost of affordable housing and could price people living in rural communities out of their area.
They are calling for the Government to publish all details of planning applications for development on AONB land, and to prioritise building projects for social housing or affordable homes.
The research, conducted by Glennigan Consultancy on behalf of CPRE, also found that high housing pressure is also being applied to land around AONBs, with the number of homes built within 546 yards (500 metres) of their boundaries increasing by 135 per cent since 2012.
Each AONB was questioned about how many developments of 10 or more houses had been approved since 2017.
In Nidderdale, which covers some 233 square miles, 79 homes in such developments have been approved, but there have been no major housing projects in the Howardian Hills that have received approval.
The CPRE has said there is a distinct divide between developments in the North and South, with 52 per cent of all planning permissions for development on greenfield land in AONBs having been granted in the South West and South East.
The High Weald AONB has seen 932 homes on greenfield land approved since 2017, and the Dorset AONB has seen 771.
Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, said: ‘The fact that some of our most highly-prized areas of countryside are being lost to build more executive homes says a great deal about our planning system.
“Continuing with this ‘build and be damned’ approach just serves to line the pockets of greedy developers whilst undermining climate action, stalling nature’s recovery and gobbling up our most precious green space that’s vital for our health and wellbeing, all while doing next to nothing to tackle the affordable housing crisis.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government said: "We don’t recognise these figures and reject this report’s conclusions. Our reforms of the country’s outdated planning system will deliver the high-quality, sustainable homes communities need - while also protecting our cherished countryside and green spaces.
“Planning decisions in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty will remain with councils and communities, ensuring they have influence over development, location and design.
“We’re also investing over £12 billion, the largest investment in a decade, to provide up to 180,000 new affordable homes.”