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Release London green belt for a million homes, urges report

Words: Laura Edgar

Building on 3.7 per cent of London’s green belt would allow a million new homes to be created, solving the city’s housing crisis, a new report has claimed. 

A report published by the Adam Smith Institute, The Green Noose: An Analysis Of Green Belts And Proposals For Reform, considers the impact the green belt is having on England’s housing shortage, explaining that the country’s planning system needs to be reformed if the problem is ever to be alleviated.

The Green Noose outlines that by building on 3.7 per cent of the green belt in the London area could provide a million homes, and if extended to England as a whole, two-and-a-half million homes could be built if 2 per cent of the country’s green belt was released for development.

What does the report recommend?

·      Abolishing the green belt and instead allow adequate provision for areas of environmental, heritage or amenity value.

·      Remove green belt designations from all intensive agricultural land.

·      Remove green belt designations for all intensive agricultural land within half-a-mile of a railway station.


Bhavash Vashi, Barton Wilmore planning director at the Reading office, said: “The report makes some interesting suggestions, but I do not believe any political party has the appetite to completely abolish the green belt as recommended by the report.

The report argues that some of the green belt is not environmentally valuable, with the 37 per cent of the capital’s green belt being farmed agricultural land that is costly. Cheaper land, it continues, would afford more gardens and parks that are environmentally positive.

In November last year The Planner reported on the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s study From Wasted Space To Living Spaces. It suggested that England has the capacity to build one million homes on brownfield land.

But The Green Noose argues that brownfield land is not always a viable alternative and can often have high environmental value and be more expensive to build on than green belt.

Its author Tom Papworth explains that while there is an acute housing crisis, land is available in abundance.

“Official justifications for green belt policy are based on ambiguous or confused concepts, while the popular belief that green belts are environmentally beneficial and enable citizens to access greenspace is untrue.

“In fact the opposite is the case - green belts are actively harmful to the environment as a third is intensive farmland and it necessitates more road and railway construction. Protecting green belts puts greater pressure on urban green space which people visit far more regularly.”

Claudia Clemente, senior planner at Barton Wilmore’s Solihull office, believes that brownfield land should be considered where possible, but says: “Given the accessibility to public transport and strategic highway networks of a significant portion of the green belt, this should be taken into account and policy shift should be reflective of this opportunity.”

She added that the real challenge is assessing what the green belt is.