Research shows fewer homes being built on greenbelt in England

The number of new homes built within the greenbelt in England halves over the last 10 years after peaking in 2001, new research shows.

Less than 100,000 have been built on these type of open spaces, which are meant to prevent urban sprawl into the countryside, since 1995, but most are in the area around London.

The research from real estate firm Countrywide also shows that the 96,000 greenbelt land homes built in the last decade made up 3.5% of the 2.7 million homes built in England.

 However, demand for new homes and a shift in development southwards saw 48% of all greenbelt development occurring around London in 2014 while four areas, Blackpool, Gloucester, Burton and Morecambe, have seen no new house building at all since 2011.

A breakdown of the figures shows that the number of new homes built on greenbelt each year has halved since the early 2000s, falling from a peak of 6,700 homes in 2001 to 3,248 in 2014.

The trend started before the downturn too. Despite a 36% rise in the number of homes built in England between 2001 and 2007, the numbers built on greenbelt fell by 46%. Last year just 3,250 homes or 3% of all homes were built on greenbelt, down on 2013 and the long run average.

Over the last five years development on greenbelt has increasingly been on land surrounding growing cities in southern England, which the firm says reflect the demand for housing and a wider trend of new home delivery concentrated in the South of England.

In 2014 the 1,575 new homes built on London greenbelt, accounted for 48% of all greenbelt development in England, up from 38% a decade ago. London has also seen the most homes built on greenbelt since 1995 at 39,100.
 
Local authorities can grant permission for development in the greenbelt in special circumstances where the benefit from development outweighs perceived harm to the greenbelt. 

While there is debate, and conflicting guidance about specifics, broadly these may include significant economic benefits, replacing buildings and in some instances housing or other social need.
 
‘While development is generally prohibited within the greenbelt a small number of homes are given permission to be built. Many of these development sites would be at odds with common perceptions of greenbelt. Rather than picturesque countryside being concreted over, these sites were either brownfield, infill schemes or unused land with little amenity value,’ said Johnny Morris, group research director at Countrywide.

‘Sustained pressure, particularly in the South, to get more homes built and government plans to take a tougher line on local authorities with out of date plans, will likely see more homes built on greenbelt in future years. Just returning to the rates of development on greenbelt seen in the early noughties would yield an extra 5,000 new homes a year,’ he explained.

‘Research by Countrywide published earlier in 2015 showed around the 80 railway stations in the greenbelt on the fringes of cities across England, there is enough unused land in areas within walking distance of those train stations to accommodate nearly half a million new homes. Given the chronic shortage of new homes in certain areas, we concluded we may not have the luxury of overlooking these potential sites,’ he added.