The Clear Choice Major Green Belt Loss or a New Wave of Garden Cities

Many local planning authorities now updating or finalising their local plans face a clear choice either release large amounts of Green Belt or plan with other local planning authorities for a new wave of Garden Cities.

Their can be little doubt now with the bedding in the NPPF and the first wave of EIP inspectors reports and notes since that it implies a significant boost in the supply of housing.  Even with RSS revocation looming the evidence of housing need remains.  Without larger than local mechanisms to distribute that need elsewhere then findings such as at Bath, Salford, Rushcliffe and York show that inspectors will be requiring strategic green belt reviews.  The outcome of the combination of these reviews, housing need and green belt, is inevitable, major green belt loss of a far greater scale than envisaged in the regional startegies.  Why do I say that, because many of the RSSs set housing targets which implied Green Belt Loss but did not explicitly state it, just look at Brentwood and Basildon for example.  In the new {stupidly endloaded) system reality will eventually out.

The debate in England has been an impoverished one for two decades.  I do not criticise those that take a no loss of green belt/countryside issue, somebody has to take that stakeholder line, but even if we were as efficient as we could be on empty homes, reusing brownfield sites at costs, locations, and densities that consumers would accept then some increase in the loss of countryside is inevitable.  If anyone wishes to disprove this then please lets see the numbers housing market area by housing market area on how it could be done otherwise.  The other polarity is those stakeholder that solely represent property owners to the exclusion of all other interests – the currently ruling Obsborne/orenge book neoliberal tendency ( a faction rather alien to 95% of conservative & liberal councillors)  – who argue that we must remove all constraints against countryside loss and let the market rip/  Of course we have argued on this blog many times that smart growth, including where appropriate new compact garden cities, is the only way out of the twin evils of major housing shortage or sprawl.

As ever in UK planning there will be attempts to kick issues into the long grass.  I predict the latest will be evidence of slowing housing size reduction in the forthcoming 2010 based household projections.  Of course the three reasons for this, sofa surfing, increased relationship but not household breakup and deferred childbearing, are all evidence of housing shortage and cost, and austerity made worse by housing costs, and not of declining need for housing.

So LPAs have a choice, get together with other LPAs, so some sub-regional studies, plan for new Garden Cities, or get creamed at your EIP and be forced into the electorally suicidal position of major Green Belt release. This cant be kicked into the long grass until after the next election, as noone except UKIP is proposing a no greenfield/build less housing policy and the chances of them forming part of a future coalition is next to nil.   Even if hypothetically there were a new political formation (lets say for sake of argument led by David Davis) proposing this and taking many NIMTO rural cllrs with them the demographics show that suburban and urban voters will outnumber them 2:1 and NO UK POLITCIAL PARTY HAS EVER WON A GENERAL ELECTION ON A PLATFORM OF BUILDING TOO FEW HOUSES , Cameron came close at the last election but swiftly abandoned the anti0development line realising how it could lead to loss of over 2% of GDP, madness at a time of depression.


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