Boris Sticks Head in the Sand on London Green Belt Review


Sir Edward Lister, chief of staff and deputy mayor for policy and planning at the Greater London Authority (GLA), stressed that the capital has no intention to expand beyond existing boundaries.

He said: “We’re not arguing that we need to expand beyond our borders – that’s not a London argument. We’re saying we can meet our demand within on London on our brownfield sites. We believe fundamentally that we can build on the 38 opportunity areas.”

He added: “We do not need to do a green belt review, we do not need to go outside of London. We believe we can meet our needs within London”.

“Everything about the [London Plan] is about self-sufficiency not about export”, he said.

Lister said he would be meeting with the “wider South East” next week “to try and talk about cooperation to try and talk through some of these issues”.

But he added: “We are saying very clearly that we can meet our needs within the city and we’re not looking for a green belt review, we’re not even putting it on the table”.

The trouble is this is exactly the argument the Mayor put to the FALP EIP last year and which the panel rejected, as the numbers did not add up and this was contrary to national policy, requiring 6.500 units a year overspill and an early review of the London Plan Strategy (code for  Green Belt Review)..  The London Plan has no soundness requirement and under the Boles/Reigate Doctrine any LPA can say they would conduct a Green Belt review, however local plans of London Boroughs and around London must be sound, must be based on evidence, must consider reasonable alternatives and must neet the Duty to Cooperate.  If an edge of London authority such as Dartford or Epping Forest says we are being to have to do a Green Belt review so must you and write a DTC letter then that could stuff the Local Plans of Green Belt Boroughs, they would not be able to either conform to am out of date (the day it was published) London Plan and the Duty at the same time, they would have no option to produce a lawful local plan. Similarly they and districts outside Greater London must meet the SEA directive, and if they dont consider the ‘reasonable alternative’ of Green Belt review, as implied by paras. 84 and 85.

We can imagine how fraught the ‘wider South East’ meeting would be next week as these authorities would either say we are having to conduct a Green Belt review so should you, or for those outside the Green Belt like Aylebury Vale would say why should we take all of any overspill caused by London’s historic failure to plan for enough homes if you dont look at policy options as well.

Now the GLA could conduct a study for new settlements etc.  outside the Green Belt, much as the LCC and GLC did in previous eras, it helps if there is a strategic plan but in practice most overspill locations were negotiated one on one.   However if the study only looks at beyond the Green Belt the affected authorities could refuse to cooperate and do their own study of sites within the Met Green Belt especially in London.  The ROSE authorities would rightly say that the Mayors plan has no plan B requiring a level of delivery that the FALP panel said was not evidenced or practical.  This means that objectors will rightly be saying to ROSE authorities you need a Plan B in case London, as it has for 80 years, fails to deliver enough housing. could end up with a stalemate between rival informal strategic  plans.

However in the spirit of consensus buildings which has resolved similar impasses elsewhere I suggest this immediately brings forth a pragmatic option.  The Mayor of London commissions a study of options outside London, so ROSE authorities would not put this ‘on the table’ then ROSE authorities would commission a review of sites within Greater London including its Green Belt, so that Boris would not put this ‘on the table’.  This is not too dissimilar to the process in Greater Brum.  Local planning authorities would conduct consultation without prejudice.  All options would be studied by an independent panel by notable planners, perhaps chaired by Corrine Swain &/or Joyce Bridges, with a notable urbanist, such as Richard Rogers, on the panel as well, as well as a Garden City Advocate such as David Lock, three is enough.  No side would be bound to accept the final recommendation, after all it is a duty to cooperate not a duty to agree.  If either side refuses to accept this process, as some have in Greater Brum, they just progress anyway as they have to.