The Landscape Institute has issued a response to the government’s proposals to relax protection of Green Belt land to free up space for housing
Landscape Institute president Sue Illman said, ‘The Green Belt is one of the most successful planning initiatives of the past half century. Digging it up is lazy policy-making. We have just witnessed how a significant Brownfield site could be rapidly and fundamentally developed to deliver an Olympic Park and Athletes’ Village that will act as a catalyst for wider development and private investment.
‘It is not sustainable to develop on Green Belt land; nor is it sustainable to allow suburban estates to sprawl out into the countryside. And, it is illogical to build costly new infrastructure on green belt land when building on existing Brownfield land allows for incremental growth using existing infrastructure.
‘What was achieved in East London successfully demonstrates how a bigger vision for green infrastructure can be the principal driver for regeneration, the creation of jobs and meeting low carbon targets. It’s a shame the Prime Minister and Chancellor appear to have such short memories.’
Noel Farrar, who is chair of the institute’s policy committee, added: ‘There is no evidence to support that the imposition of green belt has in any way reduced economic development in London. On the contrary, the discipline of focusing on the urban context, the delivery of creative solutions, reusing our Brownfield sites have contributed to London being a leading world city. If we look at any city model from New York to Hong Kong, the dense city is without question the most effective model for economic growth and recovery.
‘Mr Osborne should be putting green belts around all our cities to ensure delightful places for people to live and work in close proximity to countryside. Creating desirable places is at the core of true economic viability – not this misguided compromise.’
The institute sets out its position on the Green Belt as follows:
1. The Green Belt has proved to be one of the most successful planning initiatives of the past half century. It has guaranteed that cities limit their suburban growth and ensured that access to the countryside and its many social and environmental benefits are easily available for much of the population.
2. CPRE has argued, using 2009 government figures, that there is enough Brownfield land suitable for housing development, much of it in the south, to build almost 1.5m new homes. The data also shows that Brownfield land is not running out; on the contrary, its very nature means that the supply is being continually replenished as land use changes.
3. The Olympic Park and Athletes’ Village are good examples of a major regeneration project to reuse an extensive area of Brownfield land for both recreation and housing. A further 8000 homes are planned for this site.
4. Most property developers including publicly-funded housing associations maintain large land banks. The LI’s view is that one major reason for the lack of house building is the unfavourable commercial environment faced by house builders rather than the lack of space.
5. The LI supports the Green Belt policies in the NPPF and also supports the strong presumption in favour of sustainable development. Sustainable development requires us to make good use of natural resources, including land. It is not sustainable to develop Green Belt land which supports food production for local markets, provides leisure and recreation facilities for local communities and contributes to the distinctive character of local landscapes and historic settlements. Other than in exceptional circumstances, it is not sustainable to allow suburban estates to sprawl out into the countryside, where people remain reliant on cars for work, school and shopping trips. It is not logical to build costly new infrastructure on green belt land when building on existing brownfield land allows for incremental growth using existing infrastructure.
6. Green infrastructure is the network of green spaces, rivers and lakes that intersperse and connect villages, towns and cities. In rural areas this can include fields, woodlands, hedgerows, country parks, rivers and lakes. In urban areas it can include domestic gardens, street trees, sports pitches, civic spaces, green roofs and walls. The LI therefore suggests we should be investing in and developing green rather than grey infrastructure and using the green belt more effectively as an essential part of this green infrastructure.
7. Green infrastructure can be planned, designed and managed as a network so that the whole is always more than the sum of the parts. Everyone benefits because such networks help our future urban and rural landscapes to address challenges such as climate change, flood risk, water management, food supply, providing efficient and renewable energy and creating comfortable, attractive places in which to live
8. We have additional concerns about the future use of land outside the main urban areas, not all of which is included within Green Belts. The NPPF omits to provide any coherent policy guidance for extensive areas of countryside. For example, new settlements and eco-towns will be, by definition, within the Green Belt or open countryside.
9. In our view, the guidance that was contained within PPS7 (now cancelled) provided a sound basis for sustainable development in the countryside and the promotion of the rural economy.