London First ‘Unrealistic’ Not to Build on Green Belt

Standard– Ill blog about this report tomorrow maybe – deadlines.

Town halls around the capital were today urged to review their policy of not building on the greenbelt to help solve London’s housing crisis.

A report by business group London First suggested that brownfield land – disused industrial or commercial land – should be used first.

However, it added that it was “unrealistic” to assume that this strategy, which can be complex and costly, would provide enough land to meet the capital’s housing needs.

Without considering the greenbelt – which represents 22pc of land within London’s boundary – house prices would continue to soar, damaging the city’s competitiveness, it warned.

London First’s Jo Valentine said: “If London is going to solve its housing crisis we need action on multiple fronts, including building at greater density, developing brownfield land and – yes – better use of the greenbelt.

“Building homes on brownfield land first is always the best option, but these sites are often very complicated, costly and slow to bring forward. While London must continue to protect its valuable green spaces, the reality is greenbelt is misunderstood.

“Parts of it are unloved and of no environmental and civic value, yet can be easily reached by public transport. These are the parts of the greenbelt councils should be proactively looking at to accommodate more homes.”

The report, co-authored by the LSE and Quod planning consultancy, said councils should only consider sites close to transport hubs, of poor environmental or civic value, and where residential development can incorporate green space.

It found that just a quarter of greenbelt land around the capital was environmentally designated land, parks or land with real public access. The other three quarters was used for agriculture and a variety of uses such as golf courses, water treatment works and old hospitals.

However, just two per cent of London’s greenbelt is currently built on.

Boris Johnson has ruled out building on greenbelt until at least 2025 saying brownfield sites should provide sufficient land for development. But the capital is thought to need about 50,000 new homes every year – last year just 20,000 were built. Last week the Mayor and George Osborne set a target for 400,000 new homes by 2025.

Green Assembly member Darren Johnson said: “Building on the Green Belt isn’t going to solve London’s housing crisis. Even if you find all those sites in Greater London that are close to railway and tube stations and that have little agricultural or ecological value, they will only contribute a tiny fraction of the new homes we need.”

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