Builders target green belt land

Green belts around cities are under threat from companies buying up protected greenfield land for house-building, the Local Government Association has warned.

The LGA told town councils to urgently step up protection of the green belt, which is aimed at preventing urban sprawl, from “landbanking” companies that buy up chunks of the land to then resell it to potential house-builders at inflated prices.

The practice misleads people into thinking that current strict planning restrictions on green belts may soon be lifted, the LGA said. Because they are not, “landbanking” can turn green areas around cities into fenced-up, abandoned areas that can become neglected.

The LGA issued guidance to town councils to help them prevent the phenomenon. Chair of the LGA’s environment board David Sparks said: “Town halls are taking decisive action to protect the countryside and to make sure that people are not misled.”

“In numerous cases plots of protected land have been ruined by stakes being driven into the ground to mark out plots. Councils will use all powers at their disposal to protect rural land, particularly in the green belt and areas of outstanding national beauty.”

Landbanking companies are not breaking the law, but they do mislead their clients, said the LGA. The DTI recently took action against one such company, United Holdings Ltd,, for giving potential house-builders false hopes of obtaining planning permission and discouraging them from consulting local planning authorities.

“Anyone thinking of buying these plots of land should call their local planning department so they can get independent and impartial advice,” David Sparks said.

In guidelines published this week, the LGA urged local councils to:

· use all available legislation to stop fences being erected

· offer impartial planning advice, stressing that protected sites are “extremely unlikely” to get planning permission

· monitor the activities of “landbankers” and inform trading standards or

the DTI of illegal or misleading activities

Goska Romanowicz

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