London’s Refusal to Review Green Belt Causes Uproar Amongst Neighbours


When mayor Boris Johnson unveiled his housing plans in 2013, he proposed building a further 42,000 homes a year to meet population growth. But a few months later, analysis by the Greater London Authority (GLA) put the actual need at between 49,000 and 62,000.

So, who will accommodate this shortfall of up to 20,000 homes a year? London has so far refused to consider building on its green belt and this is causing uproar with its neighbours, who may have to accept the 200,000 new homes – and revisions to their own green belts – over the next 10 years because of the capital’s unwillingness to consider changes to its green belt.

Luton council has accused the GLA of applying double standards by refusing to countenance a revision of its green belt, while expecting its neighbours to do so, while umbrella group South East England Councils has called on the GLA to review the London green belt and do more to meet its housing need.

Our research shows, under current London proposals, the majority of councils across the wider south east will each have to accommodate between 1,000-5,000 extra new homes by 2025, with those closest to London facing the greatest pressure. However, if the green belt around London is maintained, locations further out from London – such as East Hertfordshire, Medway and Chelmsford – will have to accommodate more than 11,000 extra dwellings.

This would be on top of meeting their own housing needs and is the equivalent of a new garden city, or a new Ebbsfleet, for each of these councils. New housing for Londoners in those locations will then increase the distance commuters need to travel.

The mayor believes building on industrial land, developing in town centres and releasing more public sector land to developers will help meet London’s housing needs. Johnson also says that his proposed figures are a minimum and that councils should identify additional capacity in their own plans.

But by deferring a decision on whether the green belt in London should be relaxed and not saying how long-term needs will be met, the mayor’s proposals have not helped London’s housing crisis.

Matthew Spry is senior director at Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners.


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