The British countryside is renowned for its natural beauty, rich in wildlife and beneficial to one’s mental health. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the conservation of the green belt, which was introduced after World War Two to prevent cities from sprawling out into our cherished countryside, is a high priority for many voters.

However, UKIP’s Environment Spokesman, Dr Julia Reid MEP, has expressed concern over increasing pressure to pave over the greenbelt, in order to meet the rising demand for more homes. Across the West of England area, Greenfield sites are becoming increasingly under threat from development as local authorities struggle to meet house building targets set by the Government.

Councils which form the West of England partnership are aiming to build another 85,000 homes in the next 20 years, which is the equivalent of building two cities the size of Bath. Of the aforementioned figure, around 56,000 have already been planned for or approved, however, the councils are now looking at various sites to build another 29,000 homes.

Last month the think tank, Centre for Cities, claimed that the Government cannot address the housing crisis without building onto the greenbelt.

In response to this, Dr Julia Reid MEP, who represents the South West Counties & Gibraltar said: “Under no circumstances should we ever have to sacrifice the greenbelt or build a new town or settlement at the detriment of the environment, simply to appease those who are unwilling to support the implementation of a sensible migration policy.

“They claim, that ruling out development on the green belt is a luxury the Government cannot afford if it is serious about tackling the housing crisis. What they should be asking themselves is; why do we have a housing crisis to begin with?

“For starters, immigration into the UK is a major factor in the demand for housing. Government figures revealed that almost half of new homes built in the next five years will go to migrants.

“Once we’ve left the EU, we can implement a sensible migration policy to control NET migration figures, thus vastly reducing the reducing the demand for housing, at which point we may not need as many as 85,000 homes in the West of England area.

“However, regardless of the migration policy that is implemented once we’ve left the EU, I believe that we should completely refrain from developing on greenfield sites especially whilst brownfield sites are still available. In the West of England area, we should focus on reclaiming old and unused buildings and homes that have been uninhabited for long periods of time. As for Bristol in particular, we should aim to build taller apartment blocks, which are popular with residents in many European cities.”

“Given that the Metro Mayor for the west will have the power to decide housing policy when he or she is elected in May, if you want to protect our countryside from over-development, the best way to do this is to vote for our candidate, Aaron Foot.”

Aaron Foot is a local Farmer with an extensive background in managing and running a medium-sized rural business in Coleford, where he also sits as a councillor.