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Housebuilders must not ‘concrete over the countryside’

26 July 2023

Local countryside campaigners in Berkshire have welcomed assurances from the Government that the nation’s housing needs can be met by ‘recycling’ existing buildings and by regenerating previously developed (brownfield) sites, and not by building on the Green Belt, farmland and green spaces.

Both the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, and the Housing Secretary, Michael Gove, have this week reaffirmed the Government’s policy of building a million new homes by the end of this Parliament but have pledged that the housebuilding target can be achieved without ‘concreting over the countryside’.

The Berkshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) says that the latest statements from the PM and the Housing Secretary are “very welcome” but that Government Ministers still need to be kept “under constant pressure” to ensure that they remain firmly committed to defending the countryside.

Greg Wilkinson, Chairman of CPRE Berkshire, says: “We welcome the Government’s pledge to restore the policy of ‘Brownfield First’ and to focus most new housebuilding in the big cities, while strengthening the protection of the Green Belt, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and other open land. This is extremely important to us here in Berkshire, where our countryside has in recent years come under growing threat from the developers.”

He adds: “It is reassuring that Ministers have recognised that housing needs can best be met by breathing new life into the nation’s towns and cities, rather than building in the countryside. The Government’s new housing policy recognises that the countryside is vital for nature, farming and food production, recreation, health and wellbeing, and, critically at this time, tackling climate change. It must be protected.

“Of course new homes are needed, but they must be the right homes in the right places. There will inevitably be a requirement to build some new homes in rural areas, to meet genuine local needs, but this should be affordable housing, and development should be community-led.”

For more information on CPRE Berkshire’s campaigns to protect the local countryside, visit the charity’s website and follow the charity on social media.