Monday, 11 August 2014 14:42

Minister defends Green Belt record

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Minister defends Green Belt record

COUNCILS should prioritise development on brownfield sites – and defend the countryside against urban sprawl, a government minister has warned.

Housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis made the comment in response to claims in the Daily Telegraph about development on the Green Belt.

The newspaper said it had obtained figures showing that an average of three housing developments were now approved on Green Belt land every single day.

The figures would raise serious questions about whether the Green Belt is being appropriately protected, said the newspaper.

They were included in a report titled "Green Belt under development" by planning and construction experts Glenigan, which supplies figures to government departments and agencies.

Mr Lewis said the government had been very clear that Green Belt protection continued.

"The most recent official statistics show that the level of Green Belt development is at its lowest rate since modern records began in 1989," he said.

The Green Belt had been fortified by abolishing the last government's top-down Regional Strategies and selling surplus brownfield land for redevelopment.

The government had also introduced more flexible planning rights so empty and underused buildings could be brought back into productive use.

"Local plans are now at the heart of the planning system, so councils decide where development should go," said Mr Lewis.

There was enough brownfield land to deliver up to 200,000 new homes.

"Councils should be using their powers and the support that's available from the government to prioritise development on these sites, and defend our valuable countryside against urban sprawl."

The latest figures also showed a loss of only around 0.02% of the total Green Belt - and the Green Belt was now about 34,000 hectares larger than in 1997.

Ministers were committed to prioritise and accelerate development on brownfield sites, said Mr Lewis.

Local development orders were a flexible option that councils could use to grant planning permission so construction could begin as soon as possible.

A £5m fund was launched on 7 August to help councils consult on local development orders for brownfield land they identify.

Ministers had also outlined plans for 30 housing zones on brownfield land in London and across the country. Further details would be be announced shortly.

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