Protect Our Green Belt in the NPPF ...
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Green Belt is of utmost importance to all of us and needs to be protected ...
- It is areas of open space, offering woodlands and nature reserves to 30 million people in our urban areas. The policy's main purpose is to protect the land around towns/cities within the UK from urban sprawl and maintain the area for woodland and agriculture, as well as providing habitat for wildlife.
- Green Belt offers a number of benefits for everyone. By preventing urban sprawl, it helps protect agricultural activities and the unique character of rural communities. For those living in our towns/cities, it provides access to clean unpolluted air and an open space for outdoor activities and relaxation - Green Belt is of paramount importance when it comes to health benefits, both physically and mentally. Large numbers of people use these areas every day; walking the dog, rambling in open countryside with friends, family picnics as well as sporting activities - jogging, riding, even flying a kite.
- The UK has less forest cover than other European countries and although Green Belt does not solve this issue - it significantly improves air quality and helps to combat a number of environmental issues.
- Strong protection for the Green Belt also helps the economy by promoting urban regeneration and keeping housing and business close to services and transport links, suitable infrastructure is key to a successful town/city.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the 2015 Conservative Manifesto clearly stated that great importance is attached to the Green Belt and existing levels of protection WILL be maintained. The NPPF also states that Green Belt boundaries should only be changed in a Local Plan under “exceptional circumstances” but local authorities continue to interpret these rules in a far more lax manner than they should, in order to reach high housing targets put forward by our Government. We have seen increased proposals for housebuilding on the Green Belt over recent years with Planning Inspectors continuing to approve significant releases of Green Belt for development, despite there being ample brownfield land available and we have seen local authorities and developers exploiting 'exceptional circumstances' loopholes in planning policy to release further Green Belt for development, even when the area has been designated as making a 'significant contribution' to the 5 purposes of Green Belt within the policy. 425,000 houses were planned for Green Belt land in 2017 of which more than 70% are 'unaffordable'.
When CPRE questioned the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government, the response was that there were 'no plans to relax the strong protection that prevents inappropriate development on the Green Belt'. Also, Ministers have been clear that demand for housing alone will not justify changing Green Belt boundaries and that the Green Belt will remain protected; but this seems to contradict our Government's own proposals regarding the revision of the NPPF which proposes to release Green Belt sites for starter homes and make it easier for intrusive development on brownfield sites within Green Belt areas.
CPRE research showed enough derelict (brownfield) sites available and suitable for building at least a million new homes within the UK. It has also been highlighted that major developers are sitting on huge areas of land with planning permission which could provide over 280,000 new homes and there are long-term empty houses that could provide homes for an additional 300,000 families.
- The NPPF should include an effective brownfield policy which operates through a sequential approach to site selection and should empower local planning authorities to reject greenfield applications when there is a suitable brownfield site available.
- The NPPF should make it compulsory for planning authorities to use brownfield registers proactively to identify ALL potential sites, with their suitability for development (housing, education and employment).
- Environmental and bio-diversity value should be taken into account when looking at ANY site (including brownfield) and areas of high value should also be protected and where there are 'exceptional circumstances' as there are no other alternatives - suitable compensation and mitigation should be included and this should be incorporated into the NPPF.
- Footnote 7 should be amended to include local wildlife sites.
- Recognition has been given that plans should not necessarily determine OAN 'in full' in areas affected by Footnote 7 resources; the policies/proposals in other areas of the NPPF should be amended to reflect/support this AND should be taken as a directive by ALL local planning authorities.
- The NPPF should clearly state that 'housing demand alone is NOT a strong enough reason to justify the loss/harm to open land resources' or alter Green Belt boundaries.
- The NPPF should clarify that planning protection for National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty results from these areas having ‘the highest status of protection’ as in the current policy and these should be protected.
- The NPPF should also incorporate an improved, proactive approach to identifying and protecting other valued local landscapes, such as areas of community asset which are in Green Belt land.
We ask the Government this - if there is such a housing crisis, why are you allowing people from outside the UK to buy up properties within the UK?
We need to protect our Green Belt as its advantages hugely outweigh the disadvantages and once it has gone, it will be gone forever. Please protect our Green Belt and ensure the revised NPPF maintains its protection and closes loop holes that allow for this to be exploited!
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