The number of new homes being approved on greenbelt land in England has increased five fold in the last five years.
In 2009-10 planning permission was granted for 2,258 homes, while in 2014-15 the figure rose to 11,977.
In the last year alone the number of approvals on green land has doubled.
The government insists greenbelt development is a matter for local planning authorities.
Green belts were created to prevent urban sprawl and stop neighbouring towns merging into one another.
England has 14 green belts, covering 13% of total land.
Government policy states that the greenbelt should only be built on in \”exceptional circumstances\”. But local authorities, hard pressed to supply land for development, are turning to green belt sites to try to satisfy housing demand.
However many estimates suggest that 250,000 homes need to be built each year to solve the housing crisis in the UK.
Areas feeling the most pressure include Hertfordshire, where the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) says sites for 34,000 homes have already been proposed, with another 10,000 waiting in the wings.
In 2009/10, 2,258 homes were approved. In 2013/2014, the number had risen to 5,607. By the following year, 2014/2015, it had more than doubled to 11,977.
Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis said that it was up to local authorities to decide the future of their greenbelt:
\”Greenbelt is something that has been there to give a strategic protection to those green lungs. We have outlined what local areas need to do if they want to go through a review of their greenbelt.
\”It is very much a matter of those local authorities. They are the best placed people locally, democratically accountable locally, to decide where is the right location for any development.\”
However, Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis insists that protection for the countryside is being maintained.
\”I think we\’ve got a system now that trusts local people to make those decisions, and the National Planning Policy Framework is actually very clear.
\”Great weight should be given to conserving landscapes and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
\”Planning permission should be refused for major developments in these except in exceptional circumstances and where it can be demonstrated that it is in the public interest.\”