“Outdated” green belt policy needs addressing, according to one of the men responsible for a major planning blueprint.
The claim was made by Broxbourne Borough Council’s Paul Seeby, who is overseeing the area’s local plan, which will facilitate the building of 7,000 homes.
Green belt policy was established in the 1940s with the aim of preventing urban sprawl, but a shortage of housing has brought it into question.
The Government stipulates houses can only be built on green belt land if there are “very special circumstances”, but half of the sites laid out in the borough’s plan lie in the coveted land.
“But building on green belt land shouldn’t be seen as a loss or taking something away.
“If you look at sites like High Leigh or Rosedale Park, a lot of green belt can be opened up for people to enjoy. It’s a trade off, there’s not enough brownfield sites.
“I think we need to ask ourselves what we are preserving. A piece of grass isn’t necessarily rich in biodiversity.
“When we are trying to go into the green belt we need to look at ways to open it up so people can enjoy the countryside, albeit with a few houses on the site.”
He added: “The green belt boundaries were quite random. They took London and drew a line round it and you can’t access the land.
“I think [the policy] is outdated and we need to ensure that people have access to green space.”
Local plans are currently being drawn up by every district council in the country.
Around 45 per cent of the 16,000 homes to be built in East Herts lie on the green belt, while in North Herts the figure is around 42 per cent of 12,000 homes.
Richard Bullen, the honourary treasurer of the Hertfordshire branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, passionately disagreed with Mr Seeby.
“The primary purpose of the green belt is to stop communities being joined together,” he said.
“This stems back to what happened between the wars with houses being built on the side of roads and wherever they wanted.
“It’s called green only because the Ordnance Survey use the colour green to show countryside. It’s there to make sure that we don’t get urban sprawl.
“In 1945 London and Los Angeles were about the same size. In 1947 the green belt policy was introduced.
“If London was the size of LA now it would extend from Bedford to Brighton. The whole purpose of the green belt, to prevent urban sprawl, has been very successful.”
Part of the East Herts District Plan would see 10,000 homes built in Gilston as a new garden town. Spike Hughes, of Stop Harlow North, is campaigning against the development.
On the issue of green belt policy, he said: “I absolutely disagree with Mr Seeby.
“You keep hearing this ‘we are going to build on the green belt because it’s not nice green belt’. What a load of bull.
“If you look at the green belt around Gilston, it is beautiful.”