Ministers are expected to back the construction of thousands of much needed new homes on green belt land when it releases a white paper to help solve the housing crisis next month.
It is understood that the government will encourage the use of ‘green belt swaps’ to boost housebuilding levels despite concerns from environmental campaigners.
The initiative permits councils to remove protections on one part of green belt in return for creating a new area of protected land elsewhere.
Critics say the change could transform Britain’s countryside by allowing thousands of homes to be built on protected land and watering down the original definition of green belt.
But ministers believe the ‘swaps’ are a good way to protect rural land while giving councils the powers needed to hit the government’s overall target of delivering 200,000 new homes a year.
This significant change in planning policy would be warmly welcomed by many in the property industry, including Aston Mead land & planning director Charles Hesse.
He said: “This latest move is certainly a step in the right direction. Crucially, it consigns to history the idea that all green belt is of equal value. Instead, it recognises that whilst some of it is highly desirable and should be protected at all costs, much of it could be built upon without any real loss to the environment.
“If this means another important but currently unprotected piece of land receives a level of protection it didn’t previously have, that can only be a good thing. Ultimately, it’s a sensitive way of protecting rural land, while giving councils the powers to reach their ambitious planning targets.”