The Lyons report singles out the Green Belt around cities like Oxford, Cambridge, York and Bristol as ripe for development.
Labour will allow more homes to be built on parts of the protected Green Belt if the land has little “environmental or amenity value”.
The small print of the report which is expected to form the basis of housing policy, published Sir Michael Lyons, on Thursday discloses that Green Belt with little “environmental or amenity value” is at risk.
The report singles out the Green Belt around cities like Oxford, Cambridge, York and Bristol as ripe for development.
The news comes days after Eric Pickles, the Local Government secretary, set out new tougher protections for the Green Belt amid concerns that councils are sacrificing the protected land to meet local housing targets required under new planning rules.
The report suggests that planning policy and building on the Green Belt will become one of the key battlegrounds in the run-up to May’s general election.
The Green Belt is the ribbon of land around towns and cities which was designated in the aftermath of the Second World War to stop urban sprawl.
The National Planning Policy Framework, which was introduced in March 2012, requires councils to set out where new housing will be built over a five year period in their area under new Local Plans.
The Lyons report expressed concern that “a number of towns and cities face extreme challenges in accessing land to grow to accommodate homes for all the people who work in the area.
“This is the case for those areas with tightly drawn boundaries who must work with their neighbouring authorities to provide enough homes across a housing market area.”
It said that the “ability to grow is also restricted by green belt land” around towns and cities and added that “not all green belt land is of high environmental or amenity value”.
It said: “The result is often to shift pressure for homes to the other side of the green belt rather than allowing the city to expand.
“This increases pressure on greenfield sites in these areas and carries with it economic and environmental costs.
“Cambridge, Oxford, York and Bristol are all places that to a greater or lesser extent illustrate these issues.
The Conservatives seized on the report as demonstrating that a Labour Government would allow more building on the Green Belt.
Eric Pickles, the Local Government secretary, said: “The small print of Labour’s housing policies reveals they want to impose top-down planning, with unelected officials in Whitehall ripping up the Green Belt and dumping rebranded eco-towns on local communities.
“This Government is safeguarding national Green Belt protection, and we have put elected councils in the driving seat, to draw up Local Plans to determine where new homes should and shouldn’t go.”
Chris Skidmore MP, the chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Green Belt, said: “Under the previous Labour government, their dreaded Regional Spatial Strategies planned to concrete over local greenbelts without regard to local opinion.
“Now we have clear proof that Ed Miliband is intending to launch another land grab on greenbelt areas such as around Bristol and York, ripping up countryside that has been granted special protection. These plans need to fought tooth and nail.”
However, Roberta Blackman-Woods, Labour’s shadow planning mininster said: “The national planning policy framework (NPPF) has built-in protection for the greenbelt and the natural environment and we will not change this protection. Housing development will therefore need to abide by the NPPF.
“Local authorities already have the power to de-designate or swap greenbelt land in the context of making a local plan, where there is a clear housing need. This will remain a matter for local decision-making, as is the case at present.”
Figures from Glenigan, the planning and construction industry experts, published in August found that 5,600 new homes were approved to be built on the Green Belt last year, compared to just 2,260 in 2009/10 – a 148 percent increase over the five-year period.
And to read all the comments in The Telegraph click here