Number of new homes built on Green Belt land halves

But latest land use change stats show a fall in the use of previously developed land elsewhere.


New stats show that the number of homes being developed on Green Belt land has halved.

Latest land use change stats released by MHCLG show that, in 2017-18, 2% of new residential addresses created were within the Green Belt – down from 4% the previous year.

Over the same period, 53% of new residential addresses created within the Green Belt were built on previously developed land – up 51% on the previous year.

“A halving of the proportion of new homes being built in the Green Belt is fantastic, but it shouldn’t be coming alongside a disappointing fall in the use of previously developed land elsewhere,” said Joseph Daniels, founder of modular developer Project Etopia.

“Pressure on the Green Belt has never been higher, so the country’s use of previously developed land should only be going one way,” he said.

The stats show the main previous land-use categories on which a residential address was created were:

  • Agricultural land at 17% of all addresses created
  • Vacant – not previously developed land at 15% of all addresses created
  • ‘Other developed use’ land at 13% of all addresses created

The average density of residential addresses surrounding a newly created residential address was 31, down from 32 in 2016-17; while 2% of new residential addresses created were within the Green Belt, down from 4% in 2016-17.

And 9% of new residential addresses were created within areas of high flood risk, a fall from 11% in 2016-17.

The residential address statistics can be used to create an estimate of the density of new residential development, derived by calculating the density of all residences in the hectare surrounding a newly created residential address.

In 2017-18, the average density of residential addresses surrounding a newly created residential address was 31 addresses per hectare, down from 32 addresses in 2016-17.

For previously developed land, the stats shows the average density was higher at 36 addresses per hectare, down from 40 in 2016-17.

And for non-previously developed land, the density was recorded at 25 addresses per hectare, down from 26 in 2016-17.

Within the Green Belt, the average density was 14 addresses per hectare, down by 21 per hectare in 2016-17.

“Part of the problem is that previously developed land is often disliked by developers because it is smaller and difficult to access,” said Daniels.

“Economies of scale then make it less profitable to develop, but this is where modular and modern construction methods are capable of making these sites viable again.

“So what is significant about any slump in the re-use of this land is that it points to a sluggish pace of adoption of modern methods of construction.”

“Future generations desperately need more housing, and there is still plenty of scope for developed land being used for this purpose.”

This fall in housing developments on derelict and disused land comes despite findings from CPRE’s State of Brownfield 2019 report published in March  demonstrating that there is space on suitable brownfield land for more than one million new homes.

The report also highlighted that through changes to the definition of ‘previously developed land’, and increasing the density of homes built on brownfield land, the true number of homes that could be built on brownfield sites could actually be much higher.

To CPRE, prioritising this land not only delivers more homes in towns and cities close to existing infrastructure, services and jobs, while removing local eyesores through urban regeneration, but also limits the unnecessary loss of our countryside.

As such, CPRE is calling for the government to introduce a genuine ‘brownfield first’ policy, which ensures that suitable previously developed or under-used land is prioritised for redevelopment over green spaces and countryside.

“It is imperative, if its potential is to be fully realised, that the government, councils and house builders all take a brownfield-first approach to development, said Rebecca Pullinger, planning campaigner at CPRE.

“By ensuring that run-down areas, which are crying out for regeneration, are prioritised we can build more of the homes so desperately needed in areas where people want to live, while simultaneously preventing the needless loss of countryside to new housing,” she said.


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