LSE Debate on Housing in Greenbelt – Very Unenlightening

LSE

Ending the Housing Crisis: Should we ever build on the Green Belt?

Date: Wednesday 27th June 2012
Time: 6:30-8:00
Venue: LSE Wolfson Theatre
Speakers: Professor Henry Overman (LSE), Alex Morton (Policy Exchange, Senior Research Fellow for Housing & Planning), Professor Anne Power (LSE) & Tony Burton (Urban Task Force).
Chair: Professor Christine Whitehead (LSE)

This event forms part of our Hot Topics series.

House prices in Britain remain exceptionally high. We urgently need more housing, but where should we build it? Can we meet our needs by redeveloping existing built up areas? Or does the problem call for more radical solutions.

There is a long-running and fierce debate in England about the protection of green land in the context of demands to build more housing. Britain is a relatively densely-populated country with constraints on land use, leading to high property values and thus to pressure on house prices and rents. BG@LSE is holding a debate – putting the case for and against using green land (particularly the Green Belt) for more housing and business premises. LSE academics and outside experts will put each side of the debate, allowing contributions from the floor and a lively discussion.

You are all welcome to join the continuing discussion following the debate at the reception in the Senior Common Room at 8.00.

Suggested twitter hashtag #LSEgreenbelt.

This event is free and open to all with no ticket required. Entry is on a first come, first served basis. For any queries email gov.britgov@lse.ac.uk or call 020 7955 6498

A really silly debate that is unlikely to enlighten anything as it is between those who think the Green Belt should be abolished and those who think it (and indeed largely greenfield) should be inviolate.  Where are those who would support sensible strategic release of green belt land for urban extensions where the alternatives are less sustainable, or indeed building beyond the Green Belt as Garden Cities?  Or smart growth forms of development where we do have to build whether Green Belt of not.

Treating the Green Belt as an aspatial good or bad thing in and of itself is the height of aspatial thinking.  Green Belt always and everywhere is a sptial construct designed to divert urban growth from one area and divert it to another area.  Whether or not that Green Belt at a specific location is a good or bad thing depends on the opportunity costs or benefits of that alternative location and the net benefits and disbenefits of the regional arrangements of controls and development areas of which it implicitly or explicily forms a part.

The issue then is not whether Green Belt is or not not a good thing but whether the spatial pattern of urbanisation it forms is the optimal planning form.  The solution to a suboptimal planning form may not even involve Green Belt extending or contracting.  There are plenty of other planning tools including promoting strategic development in the right place.  Something we have stopped doing in Britain.

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