‘We must protect our vital green belt land’
Councils across the country should take a brownfield-first approach to development, according to campaigners.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England has called on the government and local authorities to instil the policy, to protect the country’s green spaces.
The call comes as a number of communities across Shropshire are faced with potential development plans for greenfield sites, including at Shifnal, Tong, and Bridgnorth.
Shropshire Council has been consulting on its Local Development Plan, which outlines its blueprint for developments in the county up until 2036.
The proposals have provoked strong reactions from a number of communities, where campaign groups have been formed to oppose the plans.
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However, new figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, show that up until now Shropshire has done a better job protecting its green belt land than other counties across the country.
Figures released for 2017 show that five per cent of land within Shropshire’s green belt boundary was considered developed – compared to eight per cent across England.
According to the statistics the Shropshire’s green belt extends to around 245 square kilometres.
The most common use of that land is agriculture, which takes up 79 per cent of that area.
Overall, five per cent of land within the county’s green belt boundary is now classed as developed, with homes, offices and rubbish dumps among the uses.
Across England a further 460,000 homes are planned on green belt lands.
Rebecca Pullinger, from the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said that across the country previously developed brownfield land provides enough room for new houses.
She added: “There is space on brownfield land for more than one million new homes, but if its potential is to be fully realised, the government, councils and house builders must all take a brownfield-first approach to development.
“We should also be investing in the green belt to improve its value as a vital public resource, enhancing nature by planting trees and restoring wetlands, and improving access and accessibility so more people than ever can enjoy its benefits.”
A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said that they had expanded on the green belt over the past 20 years.
He said: “We are clear that building the homes our country needs does not mean tearing up our countryside. In fact the green belt is around 30,000 hectares larger than in 1997.
“Last year only 0.02 per cent of the green belt was developed for residential use and often this development is around road and rail infrastructure in place long before green belt designation.”
The prospect of green belt development has come into focus in Shropshire due to a number of proposals put forward in Shropshire Council’s Local Development plan.
In Bridgnorth the Shropshire Council has proposed setting out a large section of green belt land for development after 2036.
There is a similar situation in Shifnal, which also has a section of green belt designated for employment land under the council plan.
Another area where green belt land could be used for development is near Tong, north of Junction 3 of the M54 and west of the A41 Newport Road.
In this instance Bradford Estates, which owns the land, is seeking to build what would effectively be a new settlement made up of around 3,000 homes, along with land for businesses.
Shropshire Council had been asked to include it as a preferred project in its list of candidate sites but has said that the amount of green belt land involved, and the potential impact on communities and infrastructure, means it needs more evidence before putting it forward for consultation.