Skyscrapers: The capital could end up looking like ‘Dubai on Thames’ if policy on the Green Belt is not relaxed, a think tank has claimed Scott Olson/Getty Images
London will turn into a “Dubai on Thames” dominated by skyscrapers for the wealthy unless restrictions on building homes on the Green Belt are lifted, the author of a report claims today.
Tom Papworth, of free-market think tank the Adam Smith Institute, said the “unsustainable” policy of protecting Green Belt land from almost any development would lead to further high-rise blocks having to be built in the capital, and house prices continuing to soar.
Currently, more than 260 towers of over 20 storeys are being built or planned in London, with most providing flats for professionals and investors.
Mr Papworth said there were only enough brownfield sites left in the South-East for about a third of the estimated 1.8 million homes needed for the region by 2030 — and some open green space will have to be sacrificed.
He said: “The alternative is that it be-comes increasingly difficult for nurses and teachers to live in London and we’ll have to ask them to commute a couple of hours every day.
“It’ll mean land outside the Green Belt being built on and that is just as environmentally attractive and diverse as the Green Belt.
“I’m not suggesting we should cut down Epping Forest or build all over the Chilterns but there are some parts of the Green Belt that are completely surrounded by towns and are just nasty, scrubby pieces of land serving no purpose.”
Mr Papworth claimed less than four per cent of the Green Belt would be needed over the next decade.
Areas he suggests should have Green Belt status lifted include land within a 10-minute walk of a station, golf courses, farmland, “infill” stretches of open space trapped between built-up areas, and land already used for purposes such as quarrying, gravel pits, and water treatment — unless the areas are covered by protection such as being a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
He cited 1,200 hectares of open land on London’s Essex borders between Hainault, Barkingside, Chadwell Heath and Collier Row big enough to provide 60,000 homes, and a field near Theydon Bois station on the Central line that is “home to three horses”.
The report is titled A Garden of One’s Own: Suggestions for Development in the Metropolitan Green Belt.
Mr Papworth argued: “Green Belt policy pushes up the cost of living, reduces quality of life and actually harms the environment.
“Yet it has become an article of faith among politicians and is staunchly defended.”