Developers plan to build 300,000 new homes on greenfield land
A report from the Campaign to Protect Rural England found that 230 new projects are planned ahead of the government's National Planning Policy Framework, which is due to come into force next April.
These projects involve building 313,000 new homes, including 75,000 on previously protected Green Belt land - for example in Cambridge, Durham, Newcastle and Gateshead - while the rest would be constructed on other undeveloped sites.
Campaigners, including the CPRE and the National Trust, claim developers have been hoarding land in anticipation of the policy change which will introduce a "presumption in favour of sustainable development". Communities secretary Eric Pickles explained in March that "the answer to development and growth should wherever possible be 'yes'."
But campaigners are worried that this will pave the way for unlimited development and urban sprawl, despite Pickles' pledge to "maintain protection for the Green Belt and the environment".
The new planning rules will do away with a requirement that developers consider previously developed sites before building on pristine land - which is easier and cheaper than building on brownfield sites, because they have to be cleaned up first.
Paul Miner, of the CPRE, said: "At the moment a huge number of developments are being proposed on the back of the statement the government has made that the default answer to development is "yes"."
However, ministers and developers argue the changes will kickstart housebuilding, currently at a record low, by simplifying the planning process - 1,000 pages of rules will be condensed into just 50. Last year fewer than half number of new houses were built, a total of 105,000.