20,000 new homes planned for Green Belt in Surrey

20,000 new homes planned for Green Belt in Surrey

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has published a new map highlighting current threats to London’s Green Belt, which covers 84% of Surrey’s countryside but which is increasingly being “nibbled away”, say the campaigners, by inappropriate development. The map shows nearly 200 sites under threat from development, and proposals for building over 110,000 houses on supposedly “protected” Green Belt land including 41,500 houses in Hertfordshire, 27,000 in Essex, and 20,000 here in Surrey. These include the large housing schemes proposed for Wisley and for Blackwell Farm on the Hogs Back, both included in the latest draft of the Guildford Local Plan. 

Catherine Maguire, CPRE Green Belt Campaigner, said: “The Government’s pre-election commitment to protect our Green Belt is not being adhered to. David Cameron said the Green Belt would ‘safe with us’, but it is manifestly not safe. London’s Green Belt has saved our countryside. It is hugely valuable – more so now than ever, with more and more pressure being piled on the South East. If it had not been for the Green Belt preventing urban sprawl, London could have followed the example of Los Angeles, and would now spread from Brighton to Cambridge, with millions of people car-dependent and horrendous traffic and pollution problems.”
She added: “The planning system has been weakened to the extent that even the ‘strongest protection’ afforded to Green Belt land is being ignored on a widespread basis. Even though the government has clarified that housing needs cannot ‘trump’ Green Belt, it has also piled pressure on councils to release land for new homes and does not take action when protected Green Belt land is released. This is flagrantly hypocritical.
 
“What’s even more maddening is that there is categorically no need to release Green Belt for development. The London Plan identifies brownfield development opportunities in the capital alone that could provide 300,000 new homes. The developer lobby has been very successful in promulgating the myth that we must release Green Belt land if we want new homes. This is unsurprising given that houses in the Green Belt would make a tidy profit for developers, being in such nice locations. But they are expensive – not the affordable ones we need. If anything we now need to strengthen, not weaken, Green Belt land protections: we need to focus on building new homes in the right places, not in the Green Belt, not in the wider countryside, not in AONBs – Areas of Outstanding National Beauty – but on appropriate sites in already built-up areas.”
 
Catherine’s views are supported by Andy Smith, Surrey Branch Director of CPRE, who said: “Here in Surrey we are facing a tidal wave of new development schemes, and local councils seem to be increasingly willing to give up Green Belt land to make way for this development. But in CPRE’s view there is no justification to sacrifice these open spaces to meet arbitrary housebuilding targets and short-term political goals. The Green Belt has successfully held off inappropriate development for the past 70 years. We should not give up on it now.”

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