Opinion

New government must rethink the Green Belt to meet housing needs

Housing challenge for UK

67% of public want more new homes built but brownfield can’t meet demand, says Broadway Malyan’s Jeff Nottage.

One in five adults in England say that housing is one of the most important issues that will decide how they vote in the General Election with 67% believing that the number of new homes being built should increase. But the same percentage, 67% oppose house building on the Green Belt, something that has to change according to architect and masterplanner Broadway Malayan.

 “Pledging hundreds of thousands of new homes is only half a policy and political parties must also pledge the land required to build them in order to be credible.” 

The company is using results from a specially commissioned YouGov poll as the basis for a call to the new government to implement a thorough review of the Green Belt so that the land can be used in a properly planned way for housebuilding.

The poll of 4510 adults showed up the confusion in the public’s mind over the need for new homes and where they can be constructed, Broadway Malyan says. It is urging government to rethink policy and update the Green Belts – first created over 70 years ago -  with the concept of city regions uniting cities with the towns outside the Belts that house many of the peple working in the city centres.

“The research suggests that housing is one of the most important issues for prospective voters in the up-coming General Election. However, while there is strong support for new housing, there is strong resistance to building on Green Belt land,” said Broadway Malyan director of masterplanning Jeff Nottage.

 “It also suggests that there is a lack of understanding on what the Green Belt is and its role, shown by the significant difference in the proportion of those who favour house building on greenfield sites over Green Belt land when, on the ground, they are broadly the same – they are open, undeveloped land.

 “Pledging hundreds of thousands of new homes is only half a policy and political parties must also pledge the land required to build them in order to be credible.”

Nottage said that brownfield-first policies systematically failed to supply the required level of housing and, as a result, house prices have continue to soar, homeownership is falling rapidly and homelessness is rising.

 “Green Belt regulations were introduced in the 1940s and cover up to 13% of the total land in England. In the current climate the policy is outdated,” he said. 

“The common assumption that all Green Belt land is attractive, accessible and ecologically rich is simply not true. The Green Belt is best thought of as a spectrum, ranging from Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty to unremarkable areas of scrubland. We must look to these lower-quality areas to build vital new homes, while protecting our most valuable areas of countryside.

 “If we are to meet housing demand in England, it is essential the next Government carries out an assessment of Green Belts and takes a more strategic planning approach to cities with Green Belt policies – potentially through city-region plans to help properly plan for future housing and economic growth.”

The ‘50 Shades of Green Belt’ report reveals that –

1. Housing is one of the most important issues in the election for prospective voters:

One in five (20%) adults in England say that housing is one of the most important issues that will decide how they vote (ranging from 35% in London to 12% in the North East)

Of this group, two-thirds (66%) report that they are more likely to vote for a party which priorities house building (ranging from 74% in the East of England and 68% in London to 57% in Yorkshire and the Humber)

2. Opinion is balanced on which party has the best policies for delivering new housing in Britain:

Just over one in five (21%) believe that the Conservative party has the best policies, with the same percentage citing Labour (4% name the Liberal Democrats, 4% the Greens and 3% the UKIP)

Regions are divided on which party has the best policies for delivering new housing in their local area: 

Over one in three (35%) in the North East say the Labour party has the best policies and almost a quarter (24%) of Londoners name the party but only one in ten (11%) in the South East cite Labour  

Over one in five (22%) in the South East believe the Conservative party has the best policies and almost one in five (18%) of Londoners name the party but only one in ten (10%) in the North East cite the Tories 

3. It is difficult for local people and first-time buyers to buy or rent homes in their local areas:

Over two-thirds (68%) say that it is difficult for first-time buyers to find homes to buy or rent in their local areas (ranging from 80% in London to 59% in the North West)

Over half (51%) report that it is difficult for local people to find homes to buy or rent in their local areas (ranging from 67% in London to 39% in the East Midlands)

4. There is strong support for an increase in new house building in England: 

Over two-thirds (67%) believe the number of new homes built should be increased (ranging from 73% in support of an increase in London to 61% in the West Midlands), with over two-fifths (41%) reporting that there should be a significant increase

5. The majority support the continued protection of Green Belt land:

Over two-thirds (67%) oppose house building on Green Belt (ranging from 72% in the West Midlands to 55% in London).

With Green Belt described as areas of countryside around some towns and cities, which are currently protected from most building to stop urban sprawl

6.The vast majority support house building on brownfield land:

Over four-fifths (83%) support house building on brownfield land (ranging from 85% in the East of England and East Midlands to 81% in London and 79% in the North East)

 With brownfield land taken as meaning land that has previously been built on, such as derelict buildings and former industrial land

7. Opinion is more divided on house building on greenfield land:

Nearly half (48%) oppose house building on greenfield land (ranging from 56% in the South West to 37% in London)

Over a quarter (27%) support house building on greenfield land (ranging from 36% in London to 22% in the South West)  

With greenfield land defined as land that has not previously been built on, such as agricultural land outside Green Belt

Comments

My same comment as two days ago. UK food security is rarely mentioned when housebuilding is discussed. Yet we have to import half the food we need from a world growing short of it. So, a presumption in favour of 'brownfield' sites for housebuilding makes more sense than a disingenuous review of the Green Belt and its 'food-field' sites. That need not stop the definition of brownfield being widened, while protecting our food-fields. For instance, the Secretary of State could follow European practice and intervene with compulsory powers to allow developers to complete housing site assembly in town-centre margins or next to commuter rail stations. Or, in response to a parish council request, to over-ride the Local Plan so groups of family houses could be developed close to a half empty village school. Or, to expand commuter housing provision in Mr Osborne's Northern Powerhouse.