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Maintain the existing strong protections on designated land

Last updated: 10:04pm 3 December 2019

It means maintaining the existing strong protections on designated land like the Green Belt, National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.71

Our verdict

“Designated” areas, often in the countryside, can receive a special status as “protected” due to their cultural significance or natural beauty, for example. These protections include restrictions on construction, activities and development, and laws to protect nature and wildlife.

In the case of this policy, which is a promise to simply “maintain” something, there is not much for the government to do other than not backtrack on existing protections. So far, there is no evidence of directly backtracking under the government’s mandate; indeed, the recently launched National Parks review explicitly excludes investigating the possibility of weakening existing protections.

However, the government does allow areas of Green Belt designation to be changed; it encourages Local Authorities to regularly review “whether their designated Green Belt continues to meet the five purposes”. In this way, Green Belt has been reduced by 8360 hectares from 31 Mar 2017 to 31 Mar 2019. An additional reduction of 5070 hectares came from “mapping improvements”. In total this is a reduction of less than 1% of the 1.6 million hectares of Green Belt over the two years. The land has then been redesignated (for example to local green space) or removed from designation, allowing it to be developed for housing or employment. The ONS says the past two years have seen the “largest decrease reported in recent years” and that “the number of LAs making changes to the land that is designated as Green Belt has also increased in recent years”.

Is this policy being ‘broken’ by using the ability to remove designation and allowing land to be developed on? We mark this policy as ‘done’ on the basis that land which is still designated is still protected. With an ongoing need to build more homes though, this policy is one to watch.

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