England is losing an area the size of Glasgow every year because of a record number of developments on greenfield land.
Forests, fields and parks are disappearing under concrete at the fastest rate for a quarter of a century, an investigation by The Times has found.
“On average, 170 sq km of greenfield land were built on every year from 2013 to 2016 after the government relaxed planning rules to ease the housing shortage.
The rate of development is more than two-and-a-half times the 25-year average and five times higher than the rate between 2006 and 2011.
If the construction of new homes, shops and infrastructure continues at the present pace, an area the size of Greater London will have been built on by 2028.
Greenfield land — not to be confused with green belt — refers to “previously undeveloped land” that includes farmland, gardens, forests and “grassed areas” in towns and cities.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England said that the government figures were “startling”. Graeme Willis, head of rural campaigns, said: “To use land more sustainably, we must start using it more efficiently. This rate of loss cannot be endured without losing huge swathes of our countryside. It is a non-renewable resource. Once built on, [it] is lost forever.”
The government changed the planning laws in 2012 to increase the rate of building with “a presumption in favour of sustainable development”, which required local authorities to allocate land for development.
“What you saw after 2012 was local authorities getting their houses in order in terms of land supply,” Duncan Hartley, director of planning at Rural Solutions, a property consultancy, said. “They have been allocating sites for development and those sites have had to be substantial to meet housing needs.” The single biggest use for greenfield sites once developed was housing at 17 per cent. The other significant uses were for industrial sites, transport infrastructure, offices and shops.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing said: “We will be working to put the environment at the heart of planning, making sure any new development improves the environment locally and nationally, while contributing to the wider commitment to build 300,000 homes a year.”
From 1989 to 2011, most developments were on brownfield sites.
From 2013-16, the pendulum swung the other way, with greenfield sites supplying 54 per cent of the land.”
Source The Times, paywall