Many LPAs in the Metropolitan Green Belt are conducting green Belt reviews, Mole Valley has prematurely abandoned theirs and other have slowed their local plan processes to a halt to ensure they dont occur until after the next election.
Moast arguments about the Green Belt occur over the abstract about whether or not it is a good thing or a bad thing – anti says it is part of the problem of planning pushing up house prices – pro that Green Belt should be inviolate and its loss is sprawl.
But the planning argument is not about such generalities. It is about whether a specific field or fields should be kept and whether this is sustaianble.
Let me illustrate with the case of St Albans which has at last published a draft local plan this month. It has chosen the lowest of teh range of its housing need – not recommended by its consultants, and despite propisng an extension to Hemel Hempsted proposes taking none of its overspill OAN. But this is by the y. As readers of this log will know their previous ‘no change’ local plan was voted against following a furious exchange conducted on this blog to allow for an OAN assessment and strategic (joint) Green Belt review.
The results are shown below
The yellow shows proposed deletions the yellow shows proposed Green Belt deletions. The purple areas contributing little to Green Belt purposes (coalescence between settlements etc.).
What strikes you aabout the map is how proportionately small and strategically inconsequential these areas area. They may generate lots of local heat but there is no way there loss would mount to urban sprawl. Most are very well located for urban services. You could drive around all day in St Albans District and not notice these areas had gone. The same is true for almost any ROSE authority, except for those with very tightly packed settlements like Castlepoint. The loss of such sites is not big deal, no chance of urban sprawl. If sites contribute little to Green Belt purposes what is the objection? They really are sites that never should have been included in Green Belt in the first place if boundaries had been evidence based and designed to exist in perpetuity. The exceptional circumstance is that the designation was a cock up, and there is caselaw saying this is sufficient on review.
There real issue is not whether they should be Green Belt, if they were not there is no evidence they should be designated, rather the real issue is whether or not green field sites should e developed, that is the real argument. In St Alban’s not much of one as Brownfield sites are quite rare and then largely located in the Green Belt anyway.
If the price of fighting off the treasury and potential abolition of teh Green Belt is a few relatively small but confident chunks taken out of the Green Belt lets take them out.
Note – even if you developed all of the ‘non contributing’ sites in South Herts there still would be some overspill OAN to North and Esst Herts – that ios clear from the studies. Hence Stratgic Review and Garden Cities (and urban regeneration) are handmaiden not rival solutions in the portfolio approach that will be necessary to meet housing need.