Green Belt land is shrinking, and an area the size of London has been built on in just the past 10 years.

Crown Estate land has also been cited as having the potential to accommodate further housing projects, by Oxford University, BP and Thames Water. The Government has already backed several of these proposals.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) said that the figures – showing that an area of Green Belt the size of London has been built on in the past 10 years – are much higher than expected.

?Green Belts are meant to permanently stop sprawl and protect the countryside,? said Paul Miner, planning campaigner for the CPRE. ?For many of us, that countryside is getting further and further away as the Green Belt gets constantly nibbled at.?

Green Belt land was most affected in the Midlands, where Green Belt land was reduced by 2,116 acres between 2004 and 2006.

Green Belt land was also reduced in East Anglia by 1,200 acres; the North West by 756 acres; and the South East (including London, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Essex) by 604 acres.

The Crown Estate is hoping that Green Belt land it owns between St Albans and Hemel Hempstead, and an area north of Luton, can be used for housing.

A Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) spokesman said: ?The reality is that less than 0.1 per cent of Green Belt land is developed each year. There are tough planning protections that are in place to safeguard the countryside and open green space and we will not be changing these.?

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