By Karl Mathiesen

Satelite survey reveals urban sprawl ate up 22,000 hectares of forest, farm and wetlands, as planning reforms ‘unlock countryside’ for further development

The UK’s spreading cities are relentlessly eating up the country’s green spaces, according to new research, and experts and campaigners believe government planning reforms will aggravate the loss.

A satellite survey by a research team at the University of Leicester (UofL) found that between 2006 and 2012, 22,000 hectares (54,ooo acres) of green space was converted to “artificial surfaces” – mostly housing. More than 7,000 hectares of forest was felled, 14,000 hectares of farmland concreted and 1,000 hectares of precious wetland was drained to make way for urban sprawl. That’s a landscape twice the size of Liverpool, transformed forever, in just six years.