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Report calls for a green belt review

Words: Laura Edgar
Countryside / Shutterstock_3386768

Local authorities in London should, says a new report, review the rules that protect the green belt around the city and use some of it to help alleviate the housing crisis.

The report, The Green Belt: A Place For Londoners? (pdf), has been co-authored by London First, Quod planning consultancy, and Professor Paul Cheshire from the London School of Economics.

The report explains that although brownfield sites should be the first option for development, many are costly to develop and are poorly connected.

Therefore the report argues that the starting point for a green belt review should be to consider only the areas that are near to existing transport networks “are of poor environmental or civic value” and could address London’s housing need by delivering “high-quality, well-designed” residential development “that incorporates truly accessible green space.”

Although specific examples of green belt land that are suitable for development are not given in the report, it does say that 42 per cent of London’s green belt is not parkland or environmentally protected. Additionally, it is within 2 km of a Tube or rail station. The report says a limited part of this should be considered.

Barry Stringer, Quod director, said: “If we want to protect the quality of London for the growing number of people who live in London, then we can’t continue to rule out sensible reviews of the green belt boundaries.”

• 27.6 per cent of London is covered by buildings, roads, paths and railways

• 22 per cent of all land within London’s boundary is green belt

• 13 per cent of London’s green belt is environmentally protected land

• 2 per cent of London green belt land has been built on

The report concludes that protecting London’s green spaces and countryside is “wholly compatible with seeing how the green belt can play a small part in helping to accommodate the new homes that London needs”. Local authorities should therefore “be encouraged to review their green belt” to see “what the options are for redesignating a small fraction” to help alleviate the housing shortage in the city.

Baroness Jo Valentine, chief executive of London First, said: “While London must continue to protect its valuable green spaces, the reality is the green belt is misunderstood.

“Parts of it are unloved and of no environmental or civic value, yet can be easily reached by public transport. These are the parts of the green belt that councils should be proactively looking at to accommodate more homes.”

The review, the report adds, follows a recent recommendation by the Communities and Local Government Committee in its report Operation of the National Planning Policy Framework (pdf), in which it asked councils across England to review their green belt.

It also follows a report released in January by the Adam Smith Institute, The Green Noose: An Analysis Of Green Belts and Proposals For Reform. It considers the impact the green belt is having on England’s housing shortage, explaining that releasing 3.7 per cent of the green belt in the London area could provide a million homes.