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The real ‘grey belt’ – finding space to build in London and beyond

Alice Roberts
By Alice Roberts
9th November 2023

The term ‘grey belt’ has recently been used to imply much of the Green Belt is worthless ‘scrubland’ which should be released for housebuilding. This is not a new argument: those in favour of releasing Green Belt often say this.

Today we publish The real ‘grey belt’ – finding space to build in London and beyond, Part 2 in our series of short reports about tackling threats to London’s parks and green spaces.

In Part 1 we show why building on Green Belt, in any event, won’t solve London’s housing crisis.

In this second report, we show why the idea that there are bits of Green Belt which are ‘grey’ is a myth. The reality is planning authorities are required to plan enhancements to any sites which may require it. This is something we need to do to adapt to climate change, among other things. And, far from providing a solution to the housing crisis, this kind of misleading statement in fact hinders progress by driving speculative purchase of Green Belt which pushes prices up further.

We also show there is a real grey belt: land-hungry car parks and road layouts which take up huge amounts of space while underpinning car-centred travel which forces disinvestment in public transport and brings grave social, health and environment impacts.

These are not the only brownfield sites currently available to accommodate development but they are an important part of the mix because building on the REAL grey belt helps us build towns and cities based on public transport, walking and cycling, where people can live close to services and amenities.

Car parks, to simplify, are the REAL grey belt and present a genuine opportunity to accommodate residential and commercial development while also creating better places to live. If you remain unconvinced, take a look at the map of Stevenage’s town centre (surface) car parks.

The new London Mayor should ensure these are targeted for new housing and commercial development and promote a similar approach in commuter towns outside London.

Our election work

CPRE London’s commitment to London’s parks and green spaces
✓ We support local groups, helping them save vital parks; and supporting them to create new parks from neglected and derelict green spaces.
✓ We identify the reasons spaces are coming under threat and work to tackle the causes.
✓ We champion parks, green spaces, Metropolitan Open Land and Green Belt, showing why they are so important.
✓ We publicise threats and advocate for political commitment, new policies and legislation to tackle them.

B&Q / B&M plus Tesco Extra site, Hillingdon, including large car parks, and land-hungry road layouts