Six ways in which the government is applying intense pressure to councils to allocate Green Belt for housing:
Alice Roberts, Head of Green Space Campaigns at CPRE London who, with Catherine Maguire, conducted the research for the report, said:
“There are six ways in which the government is applying intense pressure to councils to allocate Green Belt for housing despite publicly stating that the Green Belt is ‘absolutely sacrosanct’:
1. Government is forcing councils to adopt hugely inflated targets for new-build housing.
2. Councils must allocate land to accommodate the housing; theoretically they can say Green Belt is a ‘constraint’ but in reality, if they do, they must negotiate with neighbouring councils under the ‘Duty to Cooperate’ and that is politically intractable, lengthy and gets them nowhere... so they go back to finding sites within their own borders.
3. Councils must prove ‘exceptional circumstances’ to change a Green Belt boundary but Planning Inspectors are accepting that councils’ arguments that generalised pressures, including the need for housing, constitute those ‘exceptional circumstances’: exceptional is no longer really exceptional.
4. If councils don’t have sites allocated and Local Plans agreed by early 2017 the government is threatening to take away their planning powers altogether – so they are going down the only route open to them; allocating Green Belt within their own borders for housing
5. Cash strapped councils are having a huge incentive – the New Homes Bonus – waved in front of them: for half of councils, between 5% and 25% of their income is from the bonus
6. The government refuses to Call-In councils’ plans to allocate green belt land for housing saying they are in favour of localism – leaving it up to councils to decide whether to allocate Green Belt for housing or not. But this is disingenuous in light of the intense pressure they are putting councils under.”
Our speakers spoke powerfully against building on the Green Belt. Our favourite snippets are below:
Baroness Jenny Jones, Green Peer: "A report such as this is massively overdue"
Lord Richard Rogers, Labour Peer: "We can easily build all the housing needed for forthcoming years on brownfield land. We need to get control of housing and planning back from developers.”
Leonie Cooper, London Assembly Member (Labour) for Merton and Wandsworth: “We need to remind ourselves why Green Belts are so important –of their critical role in avoiding the human costs of urban sprawl. And of the huge benefits they provide for public health, food security, biodiversity and much more. If the Green Belt wasn’t here, we’d create one.”
Cllr Jackie Wren unseated the long-standing Leader of Tandridge Council with a huge voter turnout. She represents Oxted and Limpsfield Residents Group, supporting the protection of Green Belt in their area of Surrey.
“It should not be for one cash-strapped council, short-term thinking local authority to give away this Green Belt, unjustifiably and unnecessarily, treating it as some kind of personal fiefdom. It is a national resource, not a local cash-cow.
“It should not be for communities like mine to have to pay for lawyers and planning consultants to try to stop this happening.”
“Liverpool has lost half its population since the war and so has Belfast. Those cities need to have a future and, at the same time, it is not possible or reasonable to try to cram everyone into the South East of England.”
Richard Knox-Johnston,Chair of the London Green Belt Council: “The government continues to say, even to MPs, that our claims are ‘speculative and misleading’. But these 200 plus sites are being allocated by councils in their Local Plans: in our experience this makes the threats very real indeed.”
Bob Blackman, Conservative MP for Harrow East and Chair of the Communities and Local Government Select Committee: “The solution requires backbone from MPs and action from the public.”
Heartfelt thanks to tenacious London Green Belt Campaigners
There is, indeed, a huge amount of 'public action' being taken to save the Green Belt! Alice Roberts ended her speech with a heartfelt thanks to the Green Belt campaigners (below) from all over the London Green Belt for their tireless campaigning, many of whom contributed to the report.
Dr Philip Gibbs from Residents Against Inappropriate Development (RAID) in Basildon with June and Ian Stewart from Save Hounslow Heath.
Enfield RoadWatch Campaigners in conversation with Cllr Susan Parker (Guildford Green Belt Group)
Su Sayer, CPRE Chair, and Theresa Villiers, Conservative MP for Chipping Barnet
Richard Knox-Johnston and Eleanor Laing, Conservative MP for Epping Forest. In his summing up of the key messages from the report and the evening's event, Richard underlined the need for MPs, in the words of Bob Blackman, to 'show backbone' in protecting the 'national resource' which is the London Green Belt.
Craig Harrison representing the Forestry Commission with Mandy Rudd, Chief Executive of Green Space for Greater London CIC
John Croxen, CPRE Chair, sharing a lighter moment or two with Jane Seymour, CPRE Head of Campaigns and Communications, and Lord Rogers of Riverside