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RTPI: Greenfield and green belts can help provide homes

Words: Laura Edgar
Green land

Greenfield sites in England, including green belt sites, need to be considered alongside brownfield land as locations for new housing, the RTPI has said.

Published today (10 November), the institute’s policy statement Where should we build new homes was put together and established after it canvassed members across England and Wales.

The policy statement calls on the government to use a “fresh approach” for directing where new housing should be located in its impending housing white paper.

According to the statement, “green belt boundaries may well need to change, but only through careful reviews over wider areas than single local authorities, and where safeguards are put in place to ensure that development is sustainable, affordable and deliverable in a timely manner, and without prejudice to the renewal of brownfield land”.

However, the statement also reaffirms that brownfield land in built-up areas must continue to play a “vital role” for a range of purposes, including housing.

The RTPI statement notes that a ‘brownfield first’ policy will fail to deliver the land’s full potential if there is insufficient funding for the treatment and assembly of land.

“New proactive remedial programmes are needed to remove constraints on development and to make places where people want to live which are accessible by sustainable modes of transport.”

Phil Willams, RTPI president, said the policy statement "is not a crude green light” sanctioning building on the green belt.

“But we need a new approach to enable greenfield sites and green belt sites to be regarded more positively by local authorities, politicians and communities. As a society we need to look at the countryside and green belts beyond their recreational and aesthetic appeal, and assess how they can help to shape urban change in the most equitable way.”

The emotional debate around green belts is often about “people’s lack of confidence in the piecemeal decisions” about housing location, which have had a negative impact on local amenity, Williams said.

“If the planning system and planners are allowed to work properly to ensure all developments, be they on brownfield, greenfield, green belt and intensified urban centres, are in the right place in the right scale with the right infrastructure, we stand a better chance in solving the housing crisis.”

The RTPI’s policy statement Where should we build new homes follows the publication last week of its campaign, 16 Ways in 16 Days, which outlines its recommendations for tackling the housing crisis in England. Read more here.

The RTPI’s policy statements can be found on the institute’s website.

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