Manchester has developed more than a third of its Green Belt, the first place in England to do so, modular homes developer Project Etopia has found.
The developer’s analysis of The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government data has showed 34.3% of Manchester’s Green Belt has already been developed.
Joseph Daniels, chief executive of Project Etopia, said: “The country faces a huge dilemma when it comes to where it builds the huge backlog of homes it needs but the most major threats to Green Belt are not presented by residential developments.”
In Manchester — which compares unfavourably with a national average of 8.4% Green Belt development — the proportion given over to residential is just 0.1%. A huge chunk of the city’s Green Belt (28.2%) is occupied by transport and utilities — more than double any other area.
The average proportion of Green Belt developed among England’s major cities excluding Manchester is even lower than the national average at 7.4%.
However, the largest proportion of residential development in any Green Belt is the 2.7% recorded in Mid Sussex.
The figures highlight for the first time how residential developments represent a relatively small source of development within Green Belts in individual areas.
The average proportion of Green Belt taken up by residential development across England is 0.28%, compared with 4.6% occupied by transport and utilities.
Daniels added: “What these figures show is that there are huge opportunities to use sites that are already developed where provision of homes within Green Belts is truly unavoidable.
“What is surprising is the range in outcomes nationally. Different areas are resorting to developing the Green Belt to hugely varying degrees.
“This may indicate a more strategic approach at a national level is required. One answer may be to accelerate plans for new towns to ensure housing need isn’t a burden placed solely on the shoulders of those towns and cities that already exist in the expectation they can grow indefinitely.”
In terms of overall development, Manchester is followed by Wolverhampton, which has developed 27.1% of its Green Belt (0.4% residential) and Blackpool, which has developed 23.4% (0.1% residential). They are the only three places in England to develop more than 20% of their Green Belts.
The MHCLG revealed on Friday how the proportion of homes built on Green Belt land had halved in a year, while the number of new residential address built on previously developed land had dropped 3% to 53%5.