Defending the greenbelt at all costs is “populist and simplistic”

Building on greenbelt land need not be environmentally disastrous and can be better than cramming endless new developments into congested urban spaces, according to a Birmingham City University planning expert.

Responding to figures today suggesting that the number of new homes being approved on greenbelt land in England has increased five-fold in the last five years, Alister Scott, Professor of Environmental and Spatial Planning, said:

“There is a danger of viewing the countryside as a place to protect, when in fact it needs economic growth and development too. The simple and populist idea of simplistically protecting the greenbelt and cramming development into urban areas needs to stop.

“Fundamentally, we need more homes with good infrastructure services, including green space for recreation and exercise, but also for flood protection and water quality. There is a need to look at the underlying causes of the ‘problem’ rather than treat the green belt in isolation. The greenbelt is not a resource that is currently maximising its benefits to society.

“As many have argued there is a housing crisis and we do need to build more houses and communities. These need to be with the services they need to flourish and not the ‘stack ‘em high’ Ryan Air housing model that the Government seems so keen on.

“We need to clarify the housing need at a regional level perhaps using housing market areas linked with travel to work areas, moving away from local authority insularity. From this there needs to be a grown up discussion about where the best places are to absorb development, but we must avoid using a one size fits all approach.

“Planning policies are currently too vague and there needs to be greater certainty that developments are being sought in the right places.”

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