• Kevin Murphy

British Housing: Brown Belt, Green Belt Debate

The problems of Britain’s housing availability continues with new plans to use more brownfield and greenfield land in communities that need more housing. The use of this land could provide as many as one million new affordable homes for brownfield sites and 460,000 homes in green belts in a report by the State of the Green Belt report from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and released by PropertyWire.

By definition a greenfield is a project that is built on land that has no existing buildings and infrastructure. For the brownfield sites have buildings or infrastructure that is no longer being used or is no longer operational.

Those being hit particularly hard for home ownership are younger buyers who are increasingly pessimistic about their ability to do so. In a survey from the Building Societies Association (BSA) indicates that 70% think this has become a major issue. Close to 48% of those asked between the ages of 25 and 34 are currently not home owners but want to to do so in the next 10 year

Pressure has increased on the Government to protect the greenbelts and 78% of the new housing planned on these spaces are not defined as affordable. Re-defining the boundaries of community green belt land would allow for more land to be available for new home construction but is only allowed in ‘exceptional circumstances’. By Government definition 72% of the new homes built on the green belt land were ‘unaffordable’.

Land continues to be released by local planning authorities with one third using a new means of calculating for housing needs with the demands on the Metropolitan London green belt being the most affected according to the CPRE.

Tom Fyans, CPRE director of campaigns and policy says:

‘We are being sold a lie by many developers. As they sell off and gobble up the green belt to build low density, unaffordable housing, young families go on struggling to afford a place to live.’

‘The affordable housing crisis must be addressed with increasing urgency, while acknowledging that far from providing the solution, building on the green belt only serves to entrench the issue.’

‘The Government is failing in its commitment to protect the green belt, it is being eroded at an alarming rate. But it is essential, if the green belt is to fulfil its main purposes and provide 30 million of us with access to the benefits of the countryside, that the redevelopment of brownfield land is prioritised, and green belt protection strengthened.’

CPRE is recommending that the Government and local planning councils release the brownfield first before greenfield land is released as the brownfield could accommodate almost 720,000 homes due the local demand for housing and existing infrastructure.

In addition the CPRE is asking that the Government to protect the greenbelt land with established long term boundaries to stop speculative development. It is also calling for the creation of new green belts to be designated where needed.

Mark Littlewood, director general of the Institute of Economic Affairs says the existing green belt rules are out of date and that its time to lift the restrictions on green land use to accommodate new and much needed affordable homes.

Mr. Littlewood says:

‘Much of the land protected by green belt regulation is not environmentally valuable or scenic in the first place. Over 35 per cent of London’s green belt is intensively farmed agricultural land, yet there is opposition to transforming these sites into residential areas.’

‘In essence, we are prioritising the protection of dump sites over the opportunity for young people to get on the housing ladder. Since 1970, average house prices in the UK have risen by a staggering four and a half fold after inflation. No other OECD country’s experience has even come close. The UK’s housing crisis must be addressed, and even mild embrace of planning liberalisation is a step in the right direction.’

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