Economist – Green Belts no Longer Sacred

Economist

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IF THERE is one thing Britons dislike more than their country’s housing shortage, it is the idea of building more houses. Even as a lack of homes has sent prices through the roof, particularly in the south-east, cities have remained ringed by protected “green belts” of land that are off-limits to developers. Attempts to build on them provoke outcry. But on December 7th the government published a consultation on letting councils allocate “appropriate small-scale sites in the green belt specifically for starter homes”, houses designed for first-time buyers. It is a timid proposal but it hints that a deeper political change may be under way.

The plan would be the biggest relaxation of green-belt policy since the 1980s, says Matt Thomson of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), which opposes most building on the belt. In a report in March the CPRE found that even under the current strict rules, 219,000 homes were planned for development there. Mr Thomson fears that the new proposals could be the start of bigger changes in green-belt policy.

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 That is exactly what others are hoping. For although green belts protect the countryside, they prevent the construction of housing where it is needed most, and so contribute to high house prices. There are 1.6m hectares (4m acres) of green belt in Britain; in England it is more of a blanket than a belt, covering 13% of the land.

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The new proposals would probably affect just a few hundred hectares, says Paul Cheshire of the London School of Economics—“a spit in the ocean”. But it is nonetheless significant that the government is sanctioning any kind of review of the green-belt policy, he says. It coincides with a process of devolution to English cities, which could give more planning powers to mayors. Some think they may approve more building on the belt; others suspect that mayors, who answer to local residents, will prove more NIMBYish than planners based in the capital.

The new proposals would probably affect just a few hundred hectares, says Paul Cheshire of the London School of Economics—“a spit in the ocean”. But it is nonetheless significant that the government is sanctioning any kind of review of the green-belt policy, he says. It coincides with a process of devolution to English cities, which could give more planning powers to mayors. Some think they may approve more building on the belt; others suspect that mayors, who answer to local residents, will prove more NIMBYish than planners based in the capital.

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One thought on “Economist – Green Belts no Longer Sacred

  1. Yes loosen the shackles, for too long development has been leaping over the greenbelt into the open countryside resulting in loss of countryside, longer commutes, more pollution, get some homes built at the edge of villages and towns ASAP!!!!!!!!!!

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