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08 Oct
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The Top Ten Green Belt Dichotomies and Some Answers

The sanctity of the Green Belt and its effect on planning in the UK has made headlines of late, but why is it such a source of contention?

In this guide, I'll take a look at ten of the most striking Green Belt dichotomies and hopefully provide some clear-cut answers as to why this divisive policy has proved so troublesome.

  1. The Green Belt was pushed into being by a Conservative Housing Minister yet it is the ultimate market force controlling tool.
  2. The richest towns and villages to live in are dominated by being in the Green Belt.
  3. More Conservative MPs have Green Belt constituencies than do Labour MPs.
  4. We have a lower housing output by 50% than Canada who have half the population. They also have Green Belt.
  5. Queen Elizabeth I created a three-mile wide Green Belt around London, but people just paid her lots of money to ignore it.
  6. Every urban area surrounded by Green Belt has significant housing needs that are not being met.
  7. The UK has house price inflation (again!) because our output of new homes is nowhere near what is actually needed.
  8. There are huge tracts of brown field land that continue to lie vacant and not redeveloped, but they are simply not economically viable to redevelop without significant public subsidy.
  9. Green belt land is cheaper to develop and hence quicker to deliver to the market.
  10. Britain has grown by 30million people without taking away the Green Belt. Indeed more has been added – dramatically so since 1979. So some may say, why change it now?

BUT……

There has to be some form of balancing out to make sure that the ever greater tensions between promoters and resistors don’t end up in an ongoing stalemate. Here are my key recommendations:

  1. All Green Belt areas should be reviewed at a strategic level.
  2. The first step must be to consider if areas of land actually still meet Green Belt purposes, particularly following major road network improvements and new roads.
  3. If land doesn’t meet Green Belt purposes, then it should be considered for development in order of how sustainable it is locationally, particularly with regard to public transport, economic areas and contribution to sustaining settlements.
  4. A greater proportion of public benefit should be derived from such Green Belt release as there are usually much lower development costs reflected in higher land values. This was indeed a key aspect of the original Garden City proposition by Ebenezer Howard.

The Green Belt debate is, in my view, not going to go away and indeed, is going to grow over the coming years. At present, the government is not keen to consider major changes, preferring instead to see if Local Authorities propose changes themselves. At strategic level, the main metropolitan areas of the country will undoubtedly have to look again at their wider Green Belt with a necessity for co-operation between Local Authority areas.

This was brought into sharp focus recently at the Cheshire East Local Plan Examination where we represented a number of organisations.

And You?

We've provided our two cents, but what are your thoughts on the Green Belt debate? Is it a necessary evil, or an arbitrary barrier that's preventing much-needed development? Leave us your comments below, or fire us a tweet. We always love to hear what you have to say.

And if you're facing challenges with prospective developments on Green Belt sites, or have any queries about how planning policy might affect your plans – don't hesitate to get in touch today.

Image used courtesy of Andrew Filer on everydot.com

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