How green is the green belt?

In March this year Bloor Homes submitted a planning application to develop seven, five-bedroom houses on the site of the Mayfield Light Industrial Estate in Bracknell Forest, Berkshire. The rectangular parcel of land had been home to a car valet service, a steel fabrication firm and several storage units for a number of years.

Despite the fact that Bracknell Forest Council - which has a 2,739-strong housing waiting list - received numerous letters of support for the development from nearby residents who preferred to live next to some nice new homes, members of the local authority’s planning committee initially put forward a motion to refuse the developer’s application. This was mainly because the industrial estate sits within the green belt.

This demonstrates two important things: the first is that not all of the green belt is ‘green’. The second is that developing on the green belt - even if it’s not lush and leafy - is always complicated.

When it comes to building on brownfield land within the green belt emotions can run high. But with 1.8 million households languishing on local authority waiting lists in England and 250,000 new homes each year required to meet housing need, these sites seem an obvious place for developers, including housing associations and local authorities, to seek to gain planning permission.

The development of seven homes is now likely to go ahead on the site of the Mayfield Light Industrial Estate in Bracknell Forest.

If we are to better protect open countryside that is designated green belt we must get better at defining the green belt areas so as to not include areas that are not appropriate for that definition.