Green Belt At Risk From ‘Wrong Ideas About Cities’?

Thousands of acres of green space around towns and cities could be built on because of “implausible” population forecasts, campaigners claim.

The Office for National Statistics predicted that Coventry’s population would rise by 32 per cent between 2011 and 2031. That figure has led the city council to plan for more than 40,000 new homes on green belt land that once formed the Forest of Arden.

However, Keep Our Green Belt Green said that the city’s “vital signs” did not reflect the population growth projected. Its research, which four professors have reviewed, found that jobs had grown by 18 per cent in recent years but this was half that of some nearby towns. Births fell and car registrations and A&E attendances grew at a slower rate than in other cities.

The Office for Statistics Regulation, which is reviewing the statistics for Coventry after pressure by Andy Street, the mayor of the West Midlands, is now facing calls to broaden the investigation after it emerged that other areas had concerns about the use of population figures to justify house building on the green belt.

Merle Gering, who chairs Keep Our Green Belt Green, said that estimates appeared to be wrong in Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester and Nottingham, where births were not rising as the ONS had predicted but deaths were rising faster than expected. He added that the problem was “particularly acute in university towns” such as Canterbury where the number of students who left after graduating was underestimated.

Perish the thought that Beacon Park Golf Course could become a “town on a golf course” but much of the landfill needed is there already? Campaigners in Guildford and the Wirral have also carried out studies and believe that the projections used in local plans do not match real growth.

The ONS said “We have always sought to be fully transparent and helpful in discussions around the methods we use . . . and will work with the Office for Statistics Regulation to ensure a thorough review”.

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