Space to build – for a million new homes and more

4th July 2017

Our new report presents evidence showing we don’t need to build on green spaces to solve the housing crisis.
The report argues that delivering new homes in London has been hampered by slow build rates and a lack of funding for affordable homes, not, as often suggested, a lack of suitable land. It details a range of opportunities to use suitable wasted space in London, from redeveloping existing single storey buildings into ‘mid-rise’ developments, to reclaiming road space and disused garages, which it says offer enormous potential for new housing. It shows:

1. Sites for 560,000 homes have already been identified by planners
2. Airspace – above existing buildings – could provide at least 500,000 homes
3. Small sites can deliver more than 100,000 homes
4. Estate regeneration could deliver up to 360,000 homes
5. Car parks can provide space for 75,000 homes
6. Disused garages can provide space for 16,000 homes
7. Reclaiming roads and roundabouts could provide space for 10,000 homes
8. Increasing housing densities in Outer London could deliver 20,000 homes each year
9. Bringing empty homes back into use can deliver 5,000 homes

Alice Roberts of CPRE London said: “It is commonly argued that ‘to solve the housing crisis we must build on Green Belt and other green spaces’. But evidence shows there are suitable alternative sites available in London for well over a million new homes.”

“Londoners may be surprised to know that permissions have in fact already been granted for 260,000 homes in the capital. At the current build rate of 25,000 new homes per year, that alone will keep us going for 10 years. With all the other opportunities identified in this report, which don’t involve a return to high rise development, we have enough space to be building for 40 years.”

“Of course we need to build more quickly, and to tackle London’s housing crisis effectively we need much more affordable housing. But neither of these objectives will be achieved by releasing more and more land – especially precious greenfield land – which is what councils are being asked to do. The only ones set to benefit from the release of greenfield land will be landowners and the big housebuilders, not communities in need of decent, affordable housing. New evidence has shown that the vast majority of housing proposed for Green Belt will not be affordable. [2]”

“The Home Builders Federation say ‘Local authorities that have amended green belt boundaries have done so only after examining fully all other reasonable options for meeting their housing requirements,’ [3] but the Government’s so-called ‘housing requirements’ are usually double or even triple actual build rates meaning councils must release land vastly in excess of what will be needed. This is not just poor planning, it is also an excuse for forcing profitable green sites, previously protected from development, onto the market, leaving brownfield sites idle.”

CPRE London is calling for:
1. More realistic housing targets – Councils should not be required to set targets, and allocate sites, for double the number of homes likely to be built;
2. The enforcement of a ‘brownfield first’ approach – There should be a clear requirement for all suitable brownfield sites and other wasted spaces outlined in the report to be built out before any greenfield site is considered for development; and
3. More affordable homes to solve the housing crisis – Housing policy and public investment should be refocused on delivering genuinely affordable homes.


Notes to editors
(1) CPRE London 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.  We are a branch of the national environmental charity, the Campaign to Protect Rural England.  For more details on CPRE London activities and campaigns visit our website
(2) CPRE’s annual Green Belt Under Siege report shows that more than 70% of houses proposed for development are not expected to be ‘affordable’. [Definition of ‘affordable’: CPRE has analysed draft or adopted local plans proposing new housing on current Green Belt land. Most local plans contain policies on the proportion of new housing that should be considered ‘affordable’, and the definition of ‘affordable’ is set in the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).  According to the Government definition, new housing can meet the requirement to be ‘affordable’ if it includes either an element of low cost homes for sale or shared ownership, or housing for rent. The ‘housing for rent’ houses can be rented at rates of up to 80% of open market rents.


Alice Roberts, Head of Green Space Campaigns, CPRE London on 07792 942 691
Neil Sinden, Director, CPRE London on 07496 805 354

Download the report here : SPACEtoBUILD June 2017