The Green Belt comes up for debate again

England’s greenfield sites, including green belts, need to be considered alongside brownfield land as locations for new housing, the RTPI has said.

In its policy statement, Where should we build new homes, published after canvassing members across England and Wales, the RTPI said the Government’s impending Housing White Paper needs a “fresh approach” to directing where new housing should be located.

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

‘Brownfield first’ needs more funding to make it work, according to the RTPI. RTPI’s statement re-affirms the continued importance of using brownfield land as a priority, but it warns that this policy will fail if there is insufficient funding and a lack of remedial programmes to make sites ready for development and accessible to transport.

“’Brownfield first’ can only work with accompanying public investment,” said Phil Williams, RTPI President. “Without Government help in de-risking and making ready brownfield sites with upfront infrastructure, many sites will never come on stream.

“This is not a crude green light that says ‘build 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.

“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.”

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