Housing should be strategically built on the Metropolitan Green Belt to halt its piecemeal development and alleviate development pressure on the Wider South East, while protecting environmentally important areas, says a new report from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
According to the report, “A 21st Century Metropolitan Green Belt”, current planning regulations allow for parts of the green belt to be chipped away while preventing the building of settlements which make more sense strategically and environmentally.
Dr Alan Mace, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Studies at LSE and one of the authors of the report, said: “We have reached a point where we cannot keep on disregarding the Green Belt as an option for well thought out development. Brownfield sites simply cannot supply enough land to meet projected housing needs in London and the Wider South East.
“People often look at the Green Belt and say, ‘who would want to lose this?’ but often they’re looking at land that is protected in other ways, such as Metropolitan Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and this would not change. Some parts of the Green Belt are neither aesthetically pleasing nor environmentally valuable and these are the areas that should be looked at for potential development.”
The report identifies that one of the most promising ways to achieve strategic development would be along a limited number of corridors. These would be made up of a chain of centres along public transport links. As well as additional housing, these corridors would provide commercial and industrial space that is increasingly being squeezed out of London itself.
The corridors would be bounded by ‘green wedges’ with green spaces which would be improved environmentally, aesthetically and for recreational purposes. Currently Green Belt land does not do enough to deliver these benefits.
The report authors propose a ‘pioneer corridor’ which runs out to Cambridge (and is already covered by the London Stansted Cambridge Consortium) to test the feasibility of this approach. This would help build collaboration and consensus and establish which strategies and kinds of regulatory change are needed.
Dr Alan Mace said: “By locking up potentially developable land, the Green Belt forces development further from London leading to longer commutes and –importantly – adds to housing pressures across the whole of the Wider South East. Because of his central role, London’s Mayor needs to embrace a coordinating role in any review of the Green Belt and develop a framework for more active collaboration across the whole of the region.”