Green Belt under the cosh…and it’s particularly bad news for one Essex district

Tilbury Fort: one of the many joys of the Thames estuary (pic Thurrock Council)

The onslaught of development on the Metropolitan Green Belt is increasing – and an Essex district faces taking the biggest hit of all.
Data collected by eight CPRE branches in and around the capital show that 56 of 66 local authorities are targeting Green Belt land for residential development.
And the local authority planning the largest number of homes on Green Belt land is Thurrock, with a total of 29,635 properties proposed; it is followed by Dacorum (14,360) and East Hertfordshire (13,450).
In Thurrock, sites earmarked for residential development in the 2018 Local Plan include South Ockendon (12,000), Chadwell St Mary’s (5,000) and East Tilbury (5,000).
The report says: “Thurrock has a notably larger number of threats than any other LPA (local planning authority).
“Thurrock Council undertook a Regulation 18 consultation in July-September 2017 and is due to undertake a second consultation in late 2018 on options for growth.
“This included two options that would result in development in the Green Belt. It is possible that neither option is chosen as the preferred option for Thurrock, but it is certainly possible that one of them is.”
Essex has three other districts in the ‘Top 10’ of local authorities in the Metropolitan Green Belt facing the greatest number of building threats: Basildon, Rochford and Epping.
In terms of counties, Hertfordshire had the greatest number of homes proposed for the Green Belt (70,787), followed by Essex (67,826) and Surrey (29,381).
The third report from the London Green Belt Council, entitled ‘Safe Under Us’ – Two Years On, says the number of homes planned for the MGB has increased by 64 per cent in two years, with some 202,700 homes now proposed, up from 159,300 last year and 123,500 in 2016.
Predictably, there also has been a hike in the number of sites threatened, the current figure of 519 comparing with 403 in 2017 and 203 in 2016.
Most residential proposals were in advanced Local Plans, with further homes counted through planning applications.
The LGBC report highlights the 4,934 hectares of brownfield land in the 66 local-authority areas that could accommodate more than 260,000 new homes; it also notes that the percentage of genuinely affordable housing within London Green Belt residential developments is less than 10 per cent.
Richard Knox-Johnston, chairman of the LGBC, said: “This year’s data shows a further dramatic increase in threats to the London Metropolitan Green Belt. Having predicted that this would be the case, we fully expect a further increase in 2019, despite reassurances from government that the Green Belt is to be properly protected.
“Government at all levels, supported by developers, claim that development in the Green Belt will provide more affordable housing, especially for young people but, as this report shows, this is not the case. Young people are being cruelly misled.
“Unless the government takes urgent action, we believe that the threats will continue to increase. Councils are being pressurised by government to set targets which are much higher than the likely need and are, on occasions, forced to accept even higher housing numbers to accommodate growth from neighbouring authorities”.
“There appears to be no lessening of pressure on the Metropolitan Green Belt for housing, despite its importance for farming, recreation, climate change, flooding and a major role in health and welfare, especially for those suffering from mental health symptoms, as described in the government’s 25-year environment plan – A Green Future.”
Mr Knox-Johnston concluded: “Action is needed more urgently than ever if we are to avoid irreparable damage to the integrity of London’s Green Belt. The Government should be taking steps to reduce the pressure on councils to build on Green Belt land by focusing on brownfield land and genuine housing need and restricting the ability of councils to de-designate Green Belt land.”

  • To read ‘Safe Under Us?’ – Two Years On, click here: Safe Under Us