Questions to Ask Anyone with a Hardline Pro or Anti Green Belt View

London Society

75 Cowcross Street, EC1M 6EL

 Tube: Farringdon, Barbican

Having opened debate with the publication of “Green Sprawl” in December 2014 the London Society’s green belt series continues and brings a further three perspectives to the fore.

This event will focus more specifically on how and where the city might grow in the context of its green belt designation. Sharing their views on subjects from land availability to housing need and city-making more generally will be Paul Miner (Senior Policy Officer, Campaign to Protect Rural England), Matthew Spry (Senior Director, Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners) and Peter Bishop (Professor of Urban Design, University College London).

I hope we move the debate on from simple design, conservation and housing ones, important as they are.  The key policy trade off issue is what is the optimum size of London, given public transport capacity and investment?  In my view London (long expressed here and here) is about the right size, but a few nodes could be created where additional public transport investment is possible (for example the abandoned railway line through Chessington) and where the limited areas of countryside around those nodes is nothing but ‘sad pony belt’ of no intrinsic value – but these areas are not enough to meet London’s overspill.  The real need can only be met through radial intensification in brownfield areas like the upper Lea Valley (which in itself wont be enough in anyone’s calculations – even the CPRE’s) and Garden Cities and Urban Extensions, mainly beyond the Green Belt but in a few cases within in where the Green Belt was overextended in the Home Counties from the 1970s onwards.  Such nodes ideally should be big enough and far enough away from London to generate their own internal trips and public transport networks or on lines where capacity can be expanded.

Anyone expressing a dogmatic view on this issue should be asked two questions.

1) do you have a plan to expand housing allocations in plans by over 2 million (what the nation needs) and if so where – specific places please not vague categories of land that don’t add up to 2 +million?

2) do you have a plan that can build these 2+ million homes whilst meeting our carbon reduction targets?

If you cant answer BOTH questions you don’t have a constructive plan = you fit somewhere on the outer Nimby or Build What you Like Where you Like Spectrum, not the strategic planning spectrum.



3 thoughts on “Questions to Ask Anyone with a Hardline Pro or Anti Green Belt View

  1. Curious as to why meeting carbon reduction targets is a relevant consideration if all new residential development is required to meet the Building Regulations. Also a substantial review of all the Green Belts to allow for more expansion (or sprawl if you like) wouldn’t necessarily equate to complete repeal of the 1947 system.

  2. Yes I can see that (if that’s your thing), but I’ve never been convinced that new settlements beyond the Green Belt would reduce commuting by car. Most of these will become dormitories and the commutes become longer. The days of secure employment when one can assume that you can work in a single town or city are long gone. The truth is, people will have to move around, quite apart from wanting to. The issue then is for how much longer do you elevate the environment above meeting housing needs?

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