Is it time to Abolish the 1938 Green Belt Act?

I was reminded that this act was still on the statute book by a letter from the government’s chief planning officer on the consents dealt with by the National Planning Casework Unit.

It includes the Green Belt (London and Home Counties) Act 1938, the first historic piece of Green Belt legislation.

However all this early legislation did was enable councils to buy land for recreational purposes and require the Secretary of States consent for its disposal.

However Green Belt is now dealt with as a policy matter, and disposal of land used as open space is subject to more modern legislation.

The only effect of the legislation is to prevent disposal of land not used for recreational purposes, most particularly right to buy of housing.  For some reason large areas of land acquired under the Act in the 30s were allowed to be built on in Croydon and Essex in the 1950s.

In these cases if a tenant wishes to exercise right to buy and the local authority disagrees that SoS has to hold an inquiry.

In one 2001 peice of caselaw it was found to trump modern right to buy legislation.

The Act simply adds a bureaucratic layer to right to buy disposal, serves no planning purpose as it this is now covered by the 1990 Planning Act (the power to create local plans which designate Green Belt) and can be abolished as part of the deregulatory activity of removing ancient legislation past its sell by date.

The London Green Belt Council would not be pleased but it is no argument to keep legislation on the statute book for purely sentimental reasons.

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