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Research prompts green belt grumbles

Words: Roger Milne
Green belt

New research has claimed that the UK's current housing crisis is largely due to development restrictions in the green belt.

The research, led by Paul Cheshire of the London School of Economics (LSE), highlights that more of Surrey (2.65 per cent) is now devoted to golf courses than housing.
It also shows that twice as many houses were built in Doncaster and Barnsley in the five years to 2013 than in Oxford and Cambridge.
The research comes on the back of recent reports by a number of think-tanks that advocate the release of green belt land for housing.
In an article for CentrePiece magazine, Cheshire, who is professor emeritus of economic geography at LSE and a research at its Spatial Economics Research Centre, said that development restrictions in the green belt act as "discriminatory zoning" and keep the "urban unwashed out of the home counties".
He stated: "Green belts are a handsome subsidy to horsey culture and golf. Since our planning system prevents housing competing, land for golf courses stays very cheap.
"The solution to our crisis of affordability is not to blame speculators or foreign buyers but to sort ourselves out. We need to allow more land to be released for development while protecting our environmentally and amenity-rich areas more rigorously than we do at present," he added.
Cheshire's research calculated that there is enough green belt land within Greater London – 32,500 hectares – to build 1.6 million houses at average densities.