Council vows to protect Green Belt land as it looks to slash housing figure

Press ReleaseUpdated: 15 June 2023Planning
Leader of the Three Rivers District Council

Three Rivers District Council’s required housing figure could be slashed to less than 50% of the government's target - protecting the district’s valuable Green Belt.

The authority’s Local Plan sub-committee agreed on Tuesday (13 June) that council planning officers should be prioritising low or moderate harm Green Belt sites along with previously developed land (brownfield sites), and sites that already have planning permissions that could provide 4,500 new homes over 18 years.

This would in turn dramatically lower the council’s original housing target of 12,624 dwellings over 20 years set by the government to be included in the Local Plan, which earmarks multiple sites in the district to meet its future population and economic growth.

The council agreed in December that they wanted this figure to be lowered significantly to protect as much Green Belt land as possible while providing some new homes to enable growth and provide affordable homes.

Deputy council leader and lead member for planning policy, Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst, who chaired the Local Plan sub-committee, said: "This is a positive way forward. 76% of the district is made up of Green Belt land, and so we want to protect as much of it as possible while allowing for some new and especially affordable homes for our children and grandchildren.

“We will potentially allocate some 1,000 homes on brownfield sites - and we will see if we can utilise more of these sites. When existing planning permissions have been taken into account, this means around 3,000 homes could be built in areas of lower Green Belt harm.

“Recent housing projections show Three Rivers needs to build homes close to 4,500, so I know slashing the government’s figure is the right way to go.

“Officers will work on bringing forward evidence to back up our plan and they will look at any strategic sites to see if they can be justified. These larger sites which may be located in areas of higher harm to the Green Belt won’t be considered acceptable unless it can be demonstrated that there are clear benefits that outweigh the harm to the Green Belt. This might increase the housing number above 4,500.

“Councillors will decide later on what goes forward to consultation but it's clear, as I have said all along, we are ruling out massive Green Belt development that the government figures would have meant.”

The council has already ruled out allocating any sites in the Chiltern's Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

No final decision on the Local Plan has been made yet. A public consultation will launch later this year.

CAPTION: Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst