12 April 2023

‘We need to get the green belt back on the agenda’ – Matthew Evans writes for React News

Planning Counsel, Matthew Evans, has written a piece for React News on the need for the government to develop its strategy when it comes to housing delivery by once again focusing on green belt sites, rather than solely brownfields as they are currently.

Evans explains that while the government’s recent emphasis on the redevelopment of brownfield sites has been logical, noting to factors such as location, ecological value and offset considerations. However, many of the straightforward sites have now been developed, meaning only “difficult and constrained sites remain.”

The costly redevelopment of these challenging brownfield sites needs to be understood against the fact that they are better suited to high-density apartments rather than family housing (the latter of which is more greatly needed). While the government has put forward £60m via a new “Brownfield Land Release Fund 2”, this is an insignificant sum when looking at the wider issue.

Evans writes: “If we truly want to build the housing the country needs, green belt reviews need to be put firmly back on the agenda. It is a highly politicised topic, but it is crucial. There needs to be careful consideration of green belt versus protected. No one is advocating for runaway urban sprawl, but there are a lot of poor and allegedly green belt sites that are hardstanding or generally low quality – neither of which deserve the high level of protection that green belt designation affords.”

He goes on to recommend a new, additional categorisation of these sites (akin to the recent proposal for Grade-III buildings) that will differentiate between true green belt land and low-quality land that is suitable for housing developments.

“There are places in the home counties that haven’t reviewed their green belt for a very long time, and with changes to the national planning policy framework stating that green belt reviews will not need to be carried out to meet housing need, there is little chance of this changing now.”

Evans concludes by advocating for the need for greater public awareness of the sort of land that is being (unnecessarily) protected, framed against the trends of dwindling supply and rising house prices.

Without a reconsideration of both a reliance on brownfields and the funds required to do so, “it is hard to see how we are going to deliver on growth ambitions and provide the homes that people want and need.”

This article was originally published by React News on 29 March 2023 and is available here in full (behind their paywall).

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