Green Belt construction must go ahead

John Hewitt Jones

August 5, 2016

New development on the Metropolitan Green Belt is urgently needed to stop piecemeal development and relieve pressure on the South East, according to a report from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Changes to current planning regulations are needed to allow more strategic and environmentally considerate building projects say the authors of the document.

Dr Alan Mace, assistant professor of urban planning studies at LSE and one of the authors of the report, said: “We have reached a point where we cannot keep on disregarding the Green Belt as an option for well thought out development. Brownfield sites simply cannot supply enough land to meet projected housing needs in London and the Wider South East.

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“People often look at the Green Belt and say, ‘who would want to lose this?’ but often they’re looking at land that is protected in other ways, such as Metropolitan Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and this would not change.

“Some parts of the Green Belt are neither aesthetically pleasing nor environmentally valuable and these are the areas that should be looked at for potential development.”

The report identifies a number of corridors that offer promising opportunities for strategic development, following key public transport links.

As well as housing the corridors would provide commercial and industrial space that is increasingly being squeezed out of London itself.

The corridors would be bounded by ‘green wedges’ with green spaces which would be improved environmentally, aesthetically and for recreational purposes. Current Green Belt land does not do enough to deliver these benefits.

The report authors propose a ‘pioneer corridor’ running out to Cambridge to test the feasibility of this approach. This would offer a test case to establish what regulatory change is required.

Dr Alan Mace said: “By locking up potentially developable land, the Green Belt forces development further from London leading to longer commutes and – importantly – adds to housing pressures across the whole of the Wider South East.

“Because of his central role, London’s Mayor needs to embrace a coordinating role in any review of the Green Belt and develop a framework for more active collaboration across the whole of the region.”

The report draws on existing work on London’s greenbelt and workshops and the researchers’ meetings with a range of experts between October 2015 and June 2016.

The Metropolitan Green Belt was first realised in the 1930s, and expanded under the 1944 Greater London Plan.

Current policy guidelines from the National Planning Policy Framework state that “the fundamental aim of the Green Belt is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open.”

An early reason for establishing the Green Belt was to give Londoners access to the countryside. The legislation later changed to restrict the growth of London.

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