• Green Belts are unsustainable. Urban containment policies push up rents and house prices and generally increase the cost of living, force households into ever smaller homes and more cramped transport, and are harmful to the environment. This hugely depresses people’s quality of life.
• In The Green Noose we recommended a policy of “Abolish and Protect”, whereby substantial parts of the existing Green Belt would be re-designated under other land-use classifications, while the remainder would be available for development. This would allow markets to operate and so ensure that welfare-maximising solutions emerged.
• However, debates about Green Belt policy always descend into demands to know where development will take place, or claims that every hectare of declassified land would be concreted over. While the former misunderstands the role of planning policy, and the latter is disingenuous, such arguments are almost impossible to avoid.
• This paper seeks to provide examples of where development could take place. As it is location-specific, we have chosen to focus on one Green Belt – the Metropolitan Green Belt around London. In doing so we (artificially) distinguish between the Metropolitan Green Belt and “London Green Belt” (i.e. those parts of the Metropolitan Green Belt within the boundaries of Greater London).
• Our aim is not to prescribe sites for development, but to demonstrate that there is ample land within the Metropolitan Green Belt that would be suitable for development and could be built upon without undermining the overall purpose of Green Belt policy (as defined by the NPPF).
• We look at six scenarios:
1. Declassify Metropolitan Green Belt land within walking distance of a rail way station
2. Declassify Green Belt land in London within cycling distance of a railway station
3. Allow development of Green Belt golf courses
4. Infill areas of Green Belt that do not support Green Belt Policy
5. Remove agricultural land from the Green Belt
6. Declassify and re-use of already developed Green Belt land.
• Each of these would make a dramatic contribution to meeting housing need in London and the South East; in three cases, a single measure would more than meet all additional housing need until 2030.