Land broker Aston Mead says its message about the need to build on carefully selected areas of greenbelt land appears to be getting through. The company's comments come after the recent release of research based on councils' draft and adopted local plans, which indicates that a thousand extra homes a week are being planned for greenbelt sites in England.
The number of new houses proposed has risen to 274,792 - about 55,000 more than in March last year. Aston Mead Land & Planning director Adam Hesse said: "At long last, we are seeing things starting to move in the right direction. Planners finally seem to understand that sometimes the need for housing outweighs the need to protect the greenbelt. And it's important to remember that greenbelt land has no inherent ecological or agricultural value, nor was it chosen because it has natural beauty or protected wildlife.
"The greenbelt's only function was to stop urban sprawl. But it has singularly failed to do that and has instead just pushed housing further out into the countryside, resulting in higher commuting costs. What's more, it now acts as a wall that confines urban dwellers at increasingly higher densities, and is partly the reason why house prices are out of reach for so many."
Hesse says that recent research by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) suggests greenbelt boundaries were being changed to accommodate more housing at the fastest rate for two decades. He explained: "The pace certainly seems to be picking up. Here in the south east, more than 117,000 (117,208) homes are planned for the Metropolitan greenbelt around London - including 42,000 in Hertfordshire, 20,000 in Surrey, 13,000 in Bedfordshire and 9,000 in Essex.