A new report from the London School of Economics (LSA), named a 21st Century Metropolitan Green Belt, suggests that housing should be built strategically on the Metropolitan Green Belt to relieve housing pressure in the south east and stop the piecemeal erosion of the Green Belt via planning regulations.
The report says that a way to kick-start change would be to introduce an initiative in one of the city-region’s dynamic growth corridors that should act as a stimulus to develop a new approach to Green Belt policy.
“A ‘pioneer corridor’ would both send a strong message, and give the opportunity to accumulate experience about how positive change can be secured,” the report said.
However, opposition to the report’s recommendations is already mounting. “If we are to build the homes we need, we have to reinforce current protections and put brownfield first, not weaken Green Belt policy on an agenda of economic growth in the south east,” said Paul Miner, planning campaign manager at Campaign to Protect Rural England.
“The Green Belt is being chipped away by councils and developers,” he added. “It is vital that the new communities secretary backs up his recent pledge to protect the Green Belt and affords more time and funding to brownfield development across the country.”
However, the report argues that, because housing and job markets across the wider south east are now so closely inter-linked, constraints on housing supply affect the standard (and quality) of living for residents right across this extended region.
“Our recommendations take a wider south east perspective, and address questions about how change can allow all affected groups to anticipate significant benefits, the report said. “We look at London as a ‘special case’, within this context, both because of its scale/centrality and because the Mayor and Mayoral agencies have a uniquely ‘regional’ competence.”
The report says there is a logical case to let London expand within its own borders, subject to meeting other salient concerns, and pursuing a more purposive and selective ‘greening’ strategy.
However Miner, who attended the workshops which led to the report’s publication, disagrees that London’s Green Belt needs to be updated. “The Green Belt is well established, but it is not outdated,” he said. “In preventing urban sprawl it continues to provide impetus for urban regeneration, and makes environmental and economic sense in protecting the breathing space around our towns and cities. The majority of the public recognises this.”
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