Rees-Mogg, in an interview broadcast on the Conservative Home website, argues that the 1947 Planning Act was a “Socialist Act” which enabled bureaucrats to decide what was best for people, and that it has created the housing crisis by restricting the supply of land for housing. He argues that while there is genuine Green Belt, there is also much that is “poor quality scrub land that could easily be developed.” Rees-Mogg’s view is that natural beauty should be protected (via Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or AONBs) but that villages within AONBs can take “5 or 10 more houses” without risking any adverse impact on ‘natural beauty’.
Others are also banging the same drum – The Landscape Institute is calling for a strategic review of Green Belt policy.
In truth very little of the Green Belt is covered in scrubland (it’s such a small percentage it’s not even included in the statistics) – and what if it was? Scrub is a very valuable wildlife habitat, and one of the richest in terms of overall diversity of plants and animals, as well as supporting many rarities. Lodge Hill – the abandoned army camp in Kent made famous for the ongoing battle to stop it having a new town built on it, supports England’s largest Nightingale population, precisely because it has a large area of Scrub.
The Green Belt is not an environmental designation., if land has scrub or any other habitat worthy of protection it should not be lost. Green Belt has clearly defined purposes to prevent urban sparawl etc. that can be fulfilled even if land is derilict or in poor condition. It is sensible to review whether land meets those purposes if the effect of Green belt is to worsen sprawl by causing leapfrog development beyond it – which it clearly does. Then land of low quality would be top of the list. A sensible approach to the Green Belt would look at how to improve the biodiversity value of the 96-98% of the Green Belt that would stay – such as in the proposals for the London Biodiversity by Douglas Mc Nab in the latest edition of T&CP.