Number of councils losing green belt through local plans highest this decade, MHCLG figures show

Thirteen local authorities adopted local plans that involved a reduction in green belt land during 2018-19, according to the latest government statistics, the highest number so far this decade.

Green belt land: total area across England falls by 0.2 per cent. Image by Carl Spencer. Flickr
Green belt land: total area across England falls by 0.2 per cent. Image by Carl Spencer. Flickr

The local authority green belt statistics for 2018-19, published today by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), also reports that the loss of green belt area in the last year was the second-highest decrease since 2010/11, when records began.

The figures show that overall, there was a decrease of 3,290 hectares in the total area of English green belt between 31 March 2018 and 31 March 2019, representing 0.2 per cent of the overall area of England's green belt. 

The overall area of the designated green belt as at 31 March 2019 was estimated at 1,621,150 hectares, around 12.4 per cent of the land area of England, the data says.

The decrease is the second-largest decrease reported in recent years, following the 5,070 hectares reported as being lost last year, according to the figures. Previously, the highest figure was a loss of 2,130 hectares reported in 2014-15.

Of the 13 councils reporting changes to their designated green belt areas, two - Barnsley and East Hertfordshire - contributed over 50 per cent of this change between them, according to the figures, with a reduction in green belt land of three per cent and six per cent respectively. 

East Hertfordshire recorded the largest change during the year, with a loss of 1,090 hectares, following the adoption of its local plan.

Meanwhile, Barnsley lost 650 hectares of land from the green belt and Kirkless lost 500 hectares, following the adoption of their respective local plans over the last year.

The number of local authorities making changes to the land that is designated as green belt has also increased in recent years.

This year’s total of 13 local authorities making changes to their green belt in local plans is equivalent to the total number which brought forward alterations in the four years between 2010-14, according to the statistics. It is the highest figure quoted in the statistical release, which presents figures stretching back to 2010.

Commenting on the data, consultancy Lichfields Think Tank pointed out that since 1979, the total area of Green Belt has more than doubled in size. "Over the past 10 years, the area of green belt has remained stable, save for a major redesignation of 47,300 hectares to become the New Forest National Park," it said in a tweet.

The MHCLG data states that the largest percentage change to any green belt since 2013-14 has been to the Gloucester green belt, which has reduced in area by 17.5 per cent.

Research published earlier this week by the Campaign to Protect Rural England found that just 15 per cent of homes built on greenfield land in the green belt, or land recently de-allocated from the green belt were affordable between 2015-16 and 2018-19.

Housing minister Esther Mcvey earlier this month wrote to Broxtowe Borough Council "seeking further reassurance" that due to the level of green belt release proposed in its emerging local plan it will "prioritise" development on brownfield land.

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