Number of new homes built within the Greenbelt in England halves over the last 10 years

Countrywide Research

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

New research from Countrywide reveals the homes built on the Greenbelt surrounding our towns and cities over the last 20 years has halved. Since 1995, Countrywide Research estimates 96,000 new homes have been built on the Greenbelt, slightly fewer than the total number of homes in Trafford in South Manchester. This equates to around 3.5% of the 2.7 million homes built in England between 1995 and 2014.

The number of new homes built on the Greenbelt each year has halved since the early 2000s, falling from a peak of 6,700 homes in 2001 to 3,248 in 2014.The trend started before the downturn too. Despite a 36% rise in the number of homes built in England between 2001 and 2007, the numbers built on the Greenbelt fell by 46%. Last year just 3,250 homes (3% of all homes) were built in the Greenbelt, down on 2013 and the long run average.

Over the last 5 years development on Greenbelt has increasingly been on land surrounding growing cities in southern England – reflecting the demand for housing and a wider trend of new home delivery concentrated in the South of England. In 2014 the 1,575 new homes built on the London Greenbelt, accounted for 48% of all Greenbelt development in England, up from 38% a decade ago. London has also seen the most homes built on the Greenbelt since 1995, 39,100.

Local authorities can grant permission for development in the greenbelt in special circumstances where the benefit from development outweighs perceived harm to the greenbelt. While there is debate, and conflicting guidance about specifics, broadly these may include significant economic benefits, replacing buildings and in some instances housing or other social need.

Commenting Johnny Morris, Group Research Director, Countrywide plc, said:

“While development is generally prohibited within the Greenbelt a small number of homes are given permission to be built. Many of these development sites would be at odds with common perceptions of greenbelt. Rather than picturesque countryside being concreted over, these sites were either brownfield, infill schemes or unused land with little amenity value.

“Sustained pressure, particularly in the South, to get more homes built and government plans to take a tougher line on local authorities with out of date plans, will likely see more homes built on Greenbelt in future years. Just returning to the rates of development on Greenbelt seen in the early noughties would yield an extra 5,000 new homes a year.

“Research by Countrywide published earlier in 2015 showed around the 80 railway stations in the Greenbelt on the fringes of cities across England, there is enough unused land in areas within walking distance of those train stations to accommodate nearly half a million new homes. Given the chronic shortage of new homes in certain areas, we concluded we may not have the luxury of overlooking these potential sites.”


Method for research

To estimate the number of new homes built on the Greenbelt, every one of England's 1.7 million postcodes was cross referenced against Greenbelt boundaries to determine whether it formed part of a Greenbelt, and if so, which one. Details of new home sales which have taken place since 1995 using Land Registry data were matched against these postcodes. The resulting figure was uprated to account for homes which were built but not sold (e.g. affordable housing) using the details of housing completions in each local authority.

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