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Housebuilder wants reassessment of green belt for housing

News   •   Feb 02, 2017 16:39 GMT

“Critical reassessment” called for by housebuilder L&G, to use green belt land to solve Britain’s housing shortage.

The Chief Executive of housebuilder Legal and General, Nigel Wilson, has said that if 1% of green belt is released for building, it would be enough for up to one million new homes.

The L&Q housing association said Britain faced a choice: build on “green field” or continue with a shortage.

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has set a target of building a million new homes by 2020. Housebuilders do not believe this target will be met.

The comments come ahead of an announcement expected by the government on housing, along with a controversial white paper on revitalisation of England’s housing market. The paper has been delayed three times, but may now be published next week.

The paper is expected to propose a relaxation of planning rules and that local authorities should be allowed to build more council houses for rent as well as purchase.

Green belt land often surrounds towns and cities where people want to live, and so it is highly sought after.

Mr Wilson said: “The green belt has doubled in size in the last 20 years, it is 4 million acres now.

“We’ve got to have a much greater critical assessment on what is and what isn’t green belt.

“Nobody wants to build on the Chilterns, or the Malvern’s or the beautiful parts of Britain, but there are lots of areas that have been designated green belt which are really brown field sites and we absolutely have to build on more brown field sites.”

Sajid Javid, the cabinet minister responsible for housing, has said the government’s plans will be “radical”.

David Montague, Chief Executive of L&Q housing association, said: “If you look at what we’re doing here in Barking Riverside [in east London], we’re building 11,000 new homes on brown field land, and of course it makes sense to prioritise brown field land.

“But if you go just a few miles up the road to Chelmsford in Essex, we are working there on a green field site with a Tory council with the support of the local people to produce a 4,000 home new town.

“The key thing is that we need an adult conversation about where we’re going to build these homes.

“We have a choice, we either find the land to build the homes we need, or we deal with the consequences of not doing that.”

Shaun Spiers, Chief Executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said that unravelling the green belt risked losing precious countryside.

“We are an incredibly crowded country, the most populous big country in Europe, and [green belt] is the countryside nearest to where people live.”

“It stops towns merging into each other, it is an incredibly valued resource. There is loads of land with planning permission in the country already.

“There is enough brown field land to build over a million homes. We don’t need to be building on the green belt to solve the housing crisis.”

CPRE figures reveal that 360,000 houses have been proposed for green belt land in England – up from 81,000 in 2012 – as local authorities come under pressure from the government to hit the one million homes target.

Any decision to relax planning regulations will be controversial.

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