A heavyweight group of MPs, peers and think tanks from across the political divide has called for “scrappy” green belt land near train stations to be sacrificed to help solve London’s housing crisis.
A submission to new Housing Secretary James Brokenshire claims that one million homes could be built on land officially classified as “Metropolitan Green Belt” that has little value as open space.
It says planning applications for green belt sites within a kilometre — roughly a 10-minute walk — of a TfL or National Rail station that is no more than 45 minutes from central London should be waved through.
The land is protected under the Birds and Habitats Directives or designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest; falls within a National Park, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or Local Green Space; has irreplaceable natural habitats such as ancient woodland within it; or is at risk of flooding or coastal change.
The submission says that the exemptions “would ensure that no land of significant environmental or amenity value could be developed and, in reality, much of the land which would be made available for development is not green at all”.
Labour’s Siobhain McDonagh, MP for Mitcham and Morden and lead signatory on the submission, said: “It’s time to grasp the nettle and to stop promising new homes without the means of providing them.
“Would we rather have homes that our young people can afford to buy or are we happy for scrappy plots of ungreen land to remain wrongly designated as green belt just because of the potential furore that de-designation may cause? I believe that this is a fight worth having.”
She pointed out that 14 London boroughs have more land designated as green belt than is built on for housing.
The submission is being made to the consultation on the Government’s proposed National Planning Policy Framework.
London’s green belt covered 514,000 hectares last year, almost one third of the national total, and virtually unchanged since 2014.