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London must build on the greenbelt, think tank warns

A new report from the think tank Centre for London has found that in order to double the number of homes built annually, developers need to consider building on low-grade greenbelt land.

Last week, Centre for London published their new report Homes Fit for Londoners: Solving London’s Housing Crisis, in a bid to address the housing crisis that plagues the capital city. Within the report, experts state that London would be able to double annual housebuilding from the 37,000 homes built in 2021/22 to 74,000 a year for 15 years if they were to build on low-grade greenbelt land.

gray concrete bridge under blue sky and white clouds during daytime

However, this suggestion has caused controversy as the government said it was determined to provide homes ‘without concreting over the countryside’.

Low-grade greenbelt land, which has also been referred to as the ‘grey belt’ by the Labour party, includes land within broader greenbelt areas that has been neglected or has already been built on – such as disused car park or areas of wasteland. Ministers and campaigners have previously stated that these urban areas should be offered the chance of regeneration, rather than have new houses constructed on it.

Arguably, building homes on low-grade greenbelt land can also lead to a ‘leap frog’ development which could see properties built on green spaces that are currently home to various species and wildlife.

One of the reasons researchers are looking for ways to create more homes in London is due to the devastating increase in the number of people who have found themselves homeless. People who have been sleeping rough in the capital has risen by almost 50% in the last 10 years, and over 30,000 London households are on the waiting list for social housing.

As well as encouraging people to build on the green belt in London, the report also said the government should increase local planning resources and investment in affordable homes. According to the report, the city’s population has grown by almost 32% since 1991, but its housing stock has expanded by less than 29%.

Following the research, the think tank has made a series of recommendations including asking the national government to increase its investment in the Affordable Homes Programme to £15.1bn a year to fund the building of 90,000 social homes a year in England.

Against this backdrop, Centre for London have also suggested that the Mayor of London and the government should set up Development Corporations to build on strategically defines areas of the greenbelt and ensure they compensate for any loss of nature.

‘All Londoners should have access to affordable, safe, and good quality homes, that provide stability and offer access to essential amenities,’ Josh Cottell, head of research at Centre for London said. ‘Today, this vision is out of reach for many.’

Josh added: ‘London’s housing crisis is the result of policy failures – it is within our gift to solve it. The upcoming mayoral and general elections create the perfect opportunity for parties to do just that, by implementing the long-term solutions we have outlined in this report.

‘From investing in new homes that Londoners can actually afford to live in to devolving powers to the Mayor to tax homes fairly and in a way that leads to growth, planning into the future rather than relying on short-termism will secure the city’s future.’

The report, which can be found in full here, was the second and final part of the Homes Fit for Londoners programme.

Image: chan lee

More on this topic:

Mayor of London calls on Housing Taskforce as progress of new homes slows

Empty homes increased in London for the first time in over 10 years

Emily Whitehouse
Writer and journalist for Newstart Magazine, Social Care Today and Air Quality News.

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