Government launches a Consultation on relaxing green belt building for Starter Homes

The government has unveiled plans to loosen restrictions on the green belt to enable the development of thousands of new low-cost homes for first-time buyers.

The controversial move, first signalled by the chancellor in the autumn statement in December, will see the government relax planning rules to allow for the development of starter homes on specific sites within the green belt.

It is evident to say that this is set to be the biggest shake-up to planning protections for more than three decades, the ribbon of green belt land around towns and cities which prevents urban sprawl – bar in exceptional circumstances – could be built on more freely.

A consultation on the plan, published by the Department for Communities and Local Government, said the proposal would allow local areas to identify “small sites” within their green belt for housing – the definition of “small” to be determined locally.

The consultation, which closes on 25 January, also said that previously developed sites within the green belt could also be made available for the development of housing, in the same way that brownfield sites elsewhere are brought forward for new housing.

“We are firmly committed to making sure the best possible use is made of all brownfield land that is suitable for housing, to reduce the need as far as possible to release other land,” the consultation said.

“This could potentially include some brownfield land that sits within the green belt that already has buildings or structures and has previously been developed.”

The move is aimed at driving forward the government’s plans to provide 200,000 starter homes over the course of this parliament, which will be sold to first-time buyers at a 20% discount off the market price.

But while developers welcomed the government’s proposal, lobby group the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) slammed the plan, arguing it would allow housebuilders to cherry pick greenfield sites instead of developing brownfield land.

“This consultation is really concerning. Instead of addressing the current difficulties in bringing forward the right sites for the right homes, it proposes to release yet more land for development, often in the countryside and possibly in the green belt,” said Paul Miner, CPRE planning campaign manager.

In light of the above it’s safe to say that developers are going to be rubbing their hands in anticipation at the consultation – they have long desired protected green belt land to build on.  Many agree that the current policy isn’t working, but predict that these proposals will make things worse, especially if it develops in to an opportunity to cherry pick the best sites. Ultimately, if there is to be a change in the approach to development within the greenbelt then clear policy guidance should be issued.  It should not be left to ad hoc planning by appeal – that only leads to uncertainty for all concerned.

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Stacey Lakeland

About Stacey Lakeland

Stacey Lakeland is a Solicitor within the Commercial Property department at Forbes Solicitors. Stacey’s blogs cover general property matters relating to both residential and commercial property matters such as updates to legislation affecting the property sector, landlord and tenant matters, topics which relate to the construction and development sector and also issues relating to property disposals and acquisitions, to name a few.
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