Head of Research at the Adam Smith Institute, Ben Southwood, discusses England's housing crisis and the need for Green Belt reform as highlighted in new ASI report The Green Noose - An analysis of Green Belts and proposals for reform in a comment piece for CityAM.
THE UK, and particularly London, is in the midst of what should be seen as a housing crisis. According to LSE professor Paul Cheshire, new build houses are about 40 per cent bigger in the Netherlands and 38 per cent bigger in Germany than they are in England. And yet housing goes for 45 per cent less per square metre in the Netherlands and, in Germany, prices did not rise throughout the entire 1971 to 2002 period.
A new paper from the Adam Smith Institute lays the blame at the door of the Green Belt. Despite the fact that 90 per cent of the UK is undeveloped, with half of the remainder gardens, Britain is hamstrung by rules hindering development in the places where people most want to live – around successful cities, particularly in the South East. According to a 2002 estimate, English Green Belts are equivalent to a 3.9 per cent tax on all urban incomes – through their effects on housing costs, and through the extra costs they impose on businesses.
These costs are much larger in the UK than in many European areas. In 2005, planning difficulties added an extra 8.37 per cent to rents in the West End and 4.31 per cent in the City, compared to 3.31 per cent in Frankfurt, 3.75 per cent in central Paris, 1.92 per cent in Amsterdam and 0.84 per cent in Brussels.
The new ASI report, The Green Noose: An analysis of Green Belts and proposals for reform, looks at the Green Belt’s impact on England’s housing shortage. After a comprehensive review of the causes of the housing crisis, it concludes that the planning structure is out of date and in need of radical reform.