The green-belt debate is getting out of hand and principally because there is a lack of understanding of what it actually is.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) does itself no favours at all by portraying the green belt as some bucolic idyll when the truth is only 26% of the land actually conforms to this fantasy.
I’ve written about this before and my hard line is down to the disingenuous claims by the CPRE. If it was more honest about the reality, it would gain a great deal more traction. As it is, this green-belt nonsense devalues its credibility.
In any event, the green belt is not the universal panacea to housing issues in this country and especially in London. But it is part of the solution.
Any sane individual will know that we need to look at the housing crisis in the round. That means tearing apart what we know and think, defying convention and thinking the unthinkable. If this is a crisis, then we need to introduce emergency planning measures, strengthen CPO powers and allow local authorities to use all the many millions of section 106 monies at their disposal to build more homes.
In all the invective directed against housebuilders for restricting supply, let’s not forget that their land holdings pale into insignificance compared with the land held by local authorities and government bodies.
The London mayor, whoever it is, will make little or no difference to the number of houses built. Neither Zac nor Sadiq have covered themselves in glory at the mayoral hustings and their proposals have more holes than a sieve. I’m more inclined to go with Prince Zylinski.
So, in London especially, there is the need for a housing equivalent of Cobra. An independent crisis body with a directive to implement a quasi Greater London development plan similar to that, but with a harder edge, as imposed on the Greater London Council by the 1963 London Government Act.
We have the talent, we need the will. So let’s stop whinging about losing the green belt (since it’s grown by 32,000 ha since 1998, it’s an unnecessary distraction) and actually do something for a change.
Richard Berridge, managing director, Blackbird RE