The West could be in even more danger of seeing its 'most important landscapes' swallowed up by inappropriate development after a landmark ruling by a Government planning inspector.
The inspector has told Wiltshire Council that its plan for 37,000 new homes between now and 2026 is not enough – and 44,000 more should be built instead.
Wiltshire is the first local authority in the West to have its Core Strategy figure upped in the light of new Government pressure to build more homes, and it comes as a new CPRE report outlined an increasing number of the nation's most famous or notable landscapes are under threat from what it says is inappropriate house-building or other development.
The CPRE report highlighted the threat from 'a ring of development' around the ancient iron-age hillfort town of Malmesbury in Wiltshire, which last week became the first community in the West to post a finalised version of a Neighbourhood Plan, to shape and contain development.
The report from the CPRE also highlighted another landscape at serious risk was Cheddar Gorge in Somerset – it and the National Trust are opposing the Longleat Estate's plan to construct a cable car up the side of the gorge.
"Our most treasured landscapes are under unprecedented pressure," said a CPRE spokesman. "Evidence from CPRE branches across England demonstrates that there is a growing threat to our most important landscapes from inappropriate development."
The report says that the usual protection afforded by National Parks and AONBs appears to be being over-ridden by Government drives to build more homes. "We have also highlighted the dangers faced by landscapes that lack national protection but are, nevertheless, deeply valued by local communities. Government policies mean that National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) are increasingly threatened by damaging developments," he added.
Huge new housing estates are being planned around Wiltshire's three largest communities: Salisbury, Chippenham and Trowbridge, but every market town and large village is being expected to take hundreds of new homes, even before yesterday's announcement. Wiltshire had proposed 37,000 new homes, a drop from the old Labour Government's centrally-imposed target of 46,000. But a planning inspector judging Wiltshire's Core Strategy has now ruled the figure should be 44,000 – another 7,000.
A coalition of local and national groups have banded together to fight green field developments, and said even the 37,000 was too high, and the homes were not needed.
In Malmesbury, the Neighbourhood Plan has allocated more homes than the original Wiltshire Council designation, but threats to green fields still remain around the town and across the county.
Toby Sturgis, Wiltshire Council's lead planning councillor said: "The main strategic centres are obviously Salisbury, Trowbridge and Chippenham, but some of the market towns do realise that if they're going to get what they want – improved infrastructure – they do have to have some more housing to pay for it."