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London's Green Belt: our climate safety belt - under renewed threat

Thursday, 12 March 2020 13:56

Our new research reveals major threats to Green Belt in nine London Boroughs.  We must strengthen controls over Green Belt development if it is to continue to function as our 'climate safety belt'. 

“Our Green Belt is our climate safety belt”, say London campaigners

Campaigners have today published research showing major threats to Green Belt in five London Boroughs and big concerns over rising threats in four others.[1] Between November 2019 and February 2020 CPRE London[2] analysed Borough Local Plan Review documents to assess the level of threat.

Alice Roberts of CPRE London said: “Of the nine boroughs, Hounslow is top of our list, proposing to destroy Green Belt the size of 200 football pitches. Elsewhere Kingston-upon-Thames has listed 22 Green Belt sites up for development, Croydon has three sites in mind and Enfield sees the Crews Hill as an area for development.”

“Boroughs say they must find space for housing but planning permission is already in place for a quarter of a million new homes in London and there is enough previously developed land to build for at least 20 years.”

CPRE London’s report says the planning system relies heavily on landowners and developers putting sites of Previously Developed Land forward for re-development and unless councils are proactive they have little control over that. Developers and landowners are not slow to put Green Belt sites forward for development, however, because of the big profits to be made.

“It’s not just the quantity of land lost that matters though. Green Belt development is nearly always car-dependent and almost never genuinely affordable.

“Our Green Belt is our ‘climate safety belt’, promoting the development of a compact, efficient, low-carbon city and protecting us from floods and high temperatures.”

“At its simplest, compact cities are lower carbon because people travel less by car and goods don’t have to be moved so far. But with more extreme weather events, our Green Belt is also now vital in managing rainfall and flooding and reducing high temperatures generated by the urban heat island effect.

“The incremental destruction of Green Belt will mean we have a higher carbon city with more congestion and pollution. It won’t mean we have significantly more housing nor will it make housing more affordable.

“Londoners, particularly those in Outer London, need to appreciate the negative impact of Green Belt development including bringing many more car journeys to the area.

“They need to weigh this against the potential for improving lives by building attractive new ‘car-free’ neighbourhoods within the existing urban footprint of the borough, where people can live car-free and close to amenities. Those higher density developments can deliver affordable housing and homes near to amenities for older people or young people, or those on low incomes who don’t want to or can’t use a car.

“Planning development around public transport, walking and cycling, and car-share schemes instead of private car ownership, is not only possible but desirable, particularly to older people, young people and people on lower incomes who do not want to or cannot afford a private car. Roughly a third of households in Outer London, and two thirds in Inner London, already do not have access to a car. For those who need a car occasionally, car-share and hire are realistic and cheaper alternatives to car ownership. And high density development does not have to mean high rise.

“We are launching a campaign to raise awareness about renewed threats to our Green Belt, about why Green Belt is so important to tackling air pollution and climate change, and why building on it won’t solve the housing crisis.”

“We are urging members of the public to contact their local councillors and respond to local consultations to say no to building on Green Belt in their borough and to promote more sustainable alternatives.”


[1] London’s Green Belt: our climate safety belt – under renewed threat is published on CPRE London’s website

[2] CPRE London is a regional branch of the national environmental charity, Campaign to Protect Rural England. The CPRE London branch campaigns to save Green Belt, Metropolitan Open Land and other green spaces within Greater London, and to make our capital city a better place to live for everyone. It is a membership-based charity with 2,500 members across London.


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