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The Green Belt: a place for Londoners?

London First Quod SERC at LSE (2015) The Green Belt: a place for Londoners? . London First, London, UK.

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The London of today is a very different place to the city that existed sixty years ago when the Green Belt, as we know it, started to take shape. Back then, this girdle, designed to constrain the capital’s physical growth, surrounded a city that was only just starting to emerge from the hardships of the Second World War and whose population was falling. Fast forward 60 years to London in 2015 and we find a global city with a vibrant, diverse and growing economy that attracts more foreign investment than any other. London’s population is growing rapidly and is at 8.6 million people today, just above the previous historic peak in the pre-war 1939 census, and set to hit 11 million by 2050. London is, however, failing to build the number of homes needed to house this growing population and to support its economic potential. Approximately 50,000 new homes a year are needed; yet London has not got close to this figure for a generation. When the historical shortfall is taken into account, it is clear that London needs a step-change in house building. As supply fails to keep pace with demand and house prices continue to rocket, more and more Londoners struggle to find a home to meet their needs. This in turn puts business competitiveness at risk as talented people struggle to afford the high costs that come with living and working in the capital. A consensus exists within London that more homes must be built though views differ about how. London First has argued that the priority should be re-developing brownfield land by, amongst other measures, getting surplus public land into development, improving incentives on planning authorities, and increasing density. But even with this action, such re-development is often a complex, slow and costly process. It is unrealistic to think that this alone will meet the scale of London’s housing need. More land is needed for house building. Equally, public access to green space plays a vital part in London’s success as a global city. As London’s population grows, areas of civic value and natural beauty need to be enhanced, not just preserved, so that more Londoners can benefit. These seemingly competing pressures can be reconciled through a re-examination of the Green Belt. London’s Green Belt was designated because of where it is, not because of the quality or accessibility of the land within it. And it is very big: over 20% of the land in London is designated Green Belt and, at its furthest extent, it brushes Aylesbury and encircles Southend. Land in the Green Belt covers a range of uses and is of variable quality from beautiful parks to derelict buildings on wasteland. Accordingly, we propose that local planning authorities should be encouraged to review their Green Belt and consider how the land within it that is of poor environmental quality, of little or no public benefit and has good connectivity could be re-designated for high-quality, well-designed residential development that incorporates truly accessible public green space. Londoners should be able to get greater value from the green space that surrounds them. This can be achieved in a way that also sees a limited amount of Green Belt land used to accommodate more homes. If London does not take action to increase house building then too many Londoners will be forced out of the capital or see too much of their income being spent on housing costs, while London’s competitiveness will diminish as cost pressures rise against other global cities.

Item Type: Monograph (Report)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2015 London First
Divisions: Geography & Environment
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD100 Land Use
Date Deposited: 30 Apr 2018 10:51
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 13:26

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