‘London’s green belt isn’t sacrosanct … we need to build homes on it’

Evening Standard

A “simplistic and naive” view of the green belt as “sacrosanct” must be abandoned to allow London to build the housing and infrastructure it needs for its exploding population, a major report claims today

A report says London should build outwards into the green belt

Updated: 12:34, 09 December 2014

The paper, from planning body the London Society, argues that a “green sprawl” stretching as far as 35 miles beyond the capital is no longer appropriate when London’s population is growing “at a rate equivalent to adding the UK’s second biggest city, Birmingham, every 10 years”.

The call is likely to prove hugely controversial at a time when rural conservationists insist that London’s green belt is under more pressure — through the relaxation of planning rules — than at any time since it was established in the Forties to protect agricultural land and “recreational” countryside from urban sprawl.

But according to the paper, presented in London yesterday, it is time to “move away from the simplistic and naive idea that that countryside is a sacrosanct patchwork of medieval hedgerows” towards a new position recognising “housing as a need to be met in locations with appropriate environmental capacity”.

It suggests alternative visions such as a series of “green wedges” around London, with development allowed in between them, or narrower “green ripples” radiating from the city centre.

The paper, written by Jonathan Manns, an associate director at property consultancy Colliers International, says that between 1.9 per cent and 4.8 per cent of London’s green belt land would have to be sacrificed to build the one million new homes the capital will need over the next 15 years.

Green belt land is still heavily protected from development by law except in “very special circumstances”.