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Rishi Sunak has pledged to protect the “precious” green belt as he argued more homes can be built on brownfield sites.
If he becomes prime minister in September, the former chancellor would take advantage of the forthcoming refresh of planning laws to stop local authorities requesting changes to green belt boundaries in order to release land for development.
Mr Sunak would order planning authorities to automatically reject those proposals and would task his housing secretary to change policy to make it clear that inappropriate development should not be permitted on the green belt under any circumstances.
He said his planning policy would be “brownfield, brownfield, brownfield”.
The Richmond MP said: “Green belt land is extremely precious in the UK. Over the last few years we’ve seen too many examples of local councils circumventing the views of residents by taking land out of the green belt for development, but I will put a stop to it.
“Under my plans, if a local community has clearly judged a development to be inappropriate, there are no circumstances in which planning permission should be granted.
“More homes can be built while protecting the green belt and our most precious landscapes. Data shows that well over a million homes could be built across the country on brownfield sites, with particularly high capacity in the North West, Yorkshire, and the West Midlands.
“These places are crying out for new homes and a combination of building here, and more inner-city densification, will help us provide the housing that the UK needs, whilst protecting the countryside around our towns and cities.”
The former chancellor said he would support local authorities to regenerate industrial land by strengthening policy to encourage densification in inner-city areas.
In order to support local authorities getting local plans in place, Mr Sunak would also immediately relax constraints and review “local housing need” projections, which are based on out-of-date 2014 ONS numbers.
His campaign team insisted the announcement is a huge contrast to Liz Truss, who pledged to build one million homes on green belt land during her brief campaign for the Tory leadership in 2019.
More recently, Ms Truss has said she would scrap housing targets, describing them as “Stalinist”.
Alex Morton, head of policy at the Centre for Policy Studies – a centre-right think tank – said the need for more houses could not be ignored.
He said: “Both candidates need to be honest with Tory members that we need more homes, in the South, in particular.
“Other policies such as boosting brownfield or reducing immigration could help on housing – but the candidates have not set out how to achieve either – and in any case, the scale of the housing crisis means the wider need for more homes in the South, including on greenfield sites, cannot be ignored.”