England's Greenbelt will become home to more than a quarter of a million houses, as part of the government's efforts to resolve the UK's housing crisis.
Councils have allocated land for 275,000 houses to be built on England's greenbelt - an increase of 50,000 on last year - research published this morning claims.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England, which published the research under the headline "Greenbelt under siege", says boundaries are being changed to accommodate housing at the fastest rate in two decades.
The group argues that land is being released through "a misappropriated exceptional circumstances clause", noting that at least three authorities - Bradford, Durham and Northumberland - have claimed economic growth justifies use of the clause.
The 275,000 houses now planned are an increase of 25% on 2015, and almost double the 147,000 houses outlined for Greenbelt in Labour’s 2009 regional plans. There is particular pressure in the Metropolitan and West Midlands Greenbelt.
Paul Miner, planning campaign manager at CPRE, said: “Councils are increasingly eroding the Greenbelt to meet unrealistic and unsustainable housing targets.
"The Government is proposing to encourage further development in the Greenbelt. Our Greenbelt is invaluable in preventing urban sprawl and providing the countryside next door for 30 million people.
“We need stronger protection for the Greenbelt, not just supportive words and empty promises. To build the affordable homes young people and families need, the Government should empower councils to prioritise the use of brownfield sites.
"Brownfield land is a self-renewing resource that can provide at least one million new homes.”