The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has revealed that just 0.2% of land was removed from the Green Belt in the period between March 2019 and March 2020. In data compiled by the Office for National Statistics, 3,520 hectares of land was removed by 15 different local authorities, with nearly half of this coming from just one authority: Guildford Borough Council in Surrey. This equated to a loss of 6% of their Green Belt.
Although the reduction in Green Belt is down from its peak in 2017-18 (which saw a loss of 5,070 hectares), the number of councils changing their Green Belt boundaries is at its highest in recent years, with 15 authorities making reductions.
It is a familiar trope that vast swathes of Green Belt are constantly under threat of being gobbled up by developers. At 0.2%, it is actually more like nibbling at the edges.
Local authority rhetoric often centres around overzealous Government housing ministers forcing them to rip up and tarmac the Green Belt. But as the statistics reveal, for the most part this simply isn’t the case.
Figures such as this may well strengthen councillors’ resolve to resist the reforms outlined in the White Paper, which, while proclaiming continued commitment to protecting the Green Belt, could open up more opportunities for release for new settlements and urban extensions allocated in Growth areas in new Local Plans.
Furthermore, the Government’s new methodology for housing numbers, taking into account existing stock, recent delivery and affordability has the potential for housing numbers in rural districts rise sharply, doubling in some cases. These additional numbers will have to found somewhere and future figures for Green Belt release might make for more alarming reading for some.