The government has been accused of selling off areas of outstanding natural beauty after it was revealed that thousands of houses have been given the go-ahead in the protected open spaces.
Research by the Campaign to Protect Rural England shows nearly 15,500 houses were approved in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the last five years - an 82% increase.
This is despite repeated commitments by the Government to ‘maintain national protections for AONBs for the benefit of future generations’.
The CPRE says the number of housing planning applications in the areas has more than doubled since 2012 and pressure for new housing is highest in the South East and South West.
The group's report Beauty betrayed: how reckless housing development threatens England’s AONBs shows a five-fold increase in the amount of AONB land set to be built on, with applications for a further 12,741 homes in AONBs currently awaiting decision.
Emma Marrington of CPRE said: 'What is, in effect, a sell-off of AONBs is surely among the worst examples of misguided housing policy, where the drive to build more houses, any houses, no matter how unaffordable, to meet housing targets, is at the cost of our most beautiful landscapes.
'“While CPRE advocates the building of right homes in the right places, AONBs are not the right place. On top of this, current development on AONBs shows little evidence that what’s built will actually help solve the housing crisis, which is more to do with affordability than lack of land.'