NEARLY 4,500 homes are earmarked for green belt land in south east Dorset, a campaign group claims.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) says the public are being "sold a lie" as protected green belt land is being "gobbled up" to build homes that it claims will be unaffordable to those most in need of them.

The group has reviewed local authorities' Local Plans across England for its annual 'State of the Green Belt' report.

It claims 3,180 homes in Christchurch and East Dorset and 1,300 in Poole are proposed for green belt land.

Tom Fyans, director of campaigns and policy at CPRE, said green belt land was being "eroded at an alarming rate" across the country.

"The Government is failing in its commitment to protect the green belt.

"It is essential, if the green belt is to fulfil its main purposes and provide 30 million of us with access to the benefits of the countryside, that the redevelopment of brownfield land is prioritised, and green belt protection strengthened."

Major developments are planned at Roeshot Hill in Christchurch and by Parley Cross in East Dorset.

The issue of housebuilding on green belt land in the area has come into focus recently in light of local government reorganisation, as some Christchurch and Poole residents have expressed fears land on the outskirts of those boroughs will be used to meet Bournemouth's housing target.

At a recent meeting, Bournemouth council's head of economic growth Philip Broadhead said brownfield sites were "top priority" for housebuilding and the borough's "Conservative" council intended to "protect" the green belt.

The CPRE has also calculated that Christchurch and East Dorset councils have enough available brownfield land to build 1,793 homes, of which 658 could be built within five years.

Poole, it claims, can build as many as 7,315 brownfield homes, with 2,840 available within five years.

The group's analysis shows that there is often a gap between planning targets for affordable homes and what is actually approved by local authorities.

The average target across local authorities in England is for 31 per cent of new homes to be affordable.

According to the CPRE, only 22 per cent of housing units that currently have planning permission meet the definition of affordable.

On greenfield sites, which is land that has never been built on before, the figure is 27 per cent.

Local authorities can propose to release land from the green belt entirely in "exceptional circumstances" or otherwise approve developments in "very special circumstances".

However, the CPRE says that both these bars are currently "set too low".

Since 2009-10, plans for around 207,000 homes on England's green belt land have been submitted.

Just under 65,000 have been approved, while around 105,000 of them have yet to be decided.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “We are clear that building the homes our country needs does not mean tearing up our countryside.

“Last year the number of new homes built was the highest in a decade, and only 0.02 per cent of the green belt was developed for residential use.

“We are adding more certainty to the planning system and our new planning rulebook strengthens national protections for the green belt, and says that councils may only alter boundaries in exceptional circumstances once they have looked at all other options.”