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Build on Green Belt to meet housing targets states lobby group

A business lobby group has recently released a statement advocating for building on the green belt to help with the UK housing crisis. The Independent Business Network cautioned that, without taking drastic measures, owning a home is rapidly turning into an unattainable dream for a large portion of the population. So what is the solution?


What is the green belt?

The green belt was introduced after World War II to control urban sprawl and protect open spaces. It has been the subject of both staunch defence and criticism. With bigger housing targets to meet in the UK, lobby groups are now stating that it's crucial to comprehensively review its impacts on house-building, economic growth, planning, and business opportunities. While the area continues to be defended, it has also been criticised for being a blocker to the delivery of new homes, begging the question of if this is a viable solution to the current crisis.


It is perfectly reasonable and sensible to examine how the green belt has impacted on planning and house prices and on growth and to explore whether or not alterations to the policy, or a new policy altogether, is required to meet the challenges of today, both in respect of house-building and protecting green space.

- Independent Business Network report

The report also suggests that in areas with insufficient land availability, councils should be allowed to assess local green belt boundaries in a sustainable manner to meet the demand i.e. permitting some development near existing transportation networks. Additionally, the report advocates for easing planning restrictions on green belt land that has already been developed.

In a recent interview with The Telegraph, Lisa Nandy, the shadow secretary for levelling up, expressed her determination to confront the "taboo" surrounding the green belt. She stated that Labour would direct councils to identify "low-quality areas" suitable for housing. On the other hand, Rishi Sunak's Conservatives have made a commitment to safeguard the green belt. So what will happen is very much still up in the air.

Sustainable Land Utilisation

This however is not the only way that has been suggested to meet housing targets, with the government already pledging to use brownfield sites and create a more sustainable housing solution. When asked about the Green Belt and brownfield development last year, the Prime Minister reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to protecting “our green belt and … adopting a “brownfield first” strategy”.

What's a brownfield site? A brownfield site is a piece of land that was used for buildings or altered by people in the past but is not being used anymore. In England, it mainly refers to former industrial areas or factories. It does not include farmland. Essentially, brownfield sites are places where humans made changes or built things before, but they are now abandoned or not in use. 

While often harder to build on (due to a number of reasons such as materials to clear or hazards to asses), brownfield sites offer opportunities for regeneration and development while minimising the impact on green belt areas. The utilisation of previously developed land helps revitalise urban areas, reduces pressure on green spaces, and provides affordable housing options. 

Collaboration and Community Engagement

Building on any sort of land requires collaboration among various stakeholders, including government, local authorities, communities, and businesses. That's step one. Understanding exactly what the local community thinks about building on either brownfield or greenfield sites means that whatever is then created is much more likely to have community backing behind it.

If you'd like to find out more on that front, then watch this space! We have a free report coming out very soon about the benefits of building on brownfield sites and what local communities really want out of them…

Achieving housing targets in the UK necessitates a balanced approach that carefully considers the impact of policies surrounding the green belt. By evaluating the consequences of existing restrictions and exploring sustainable alternatives like brownfield site utilisation, we can address the urgent need for affordable housing while preserving our valuable green spaces. By collaborating, engaging communities, and embracing innovation, we can build a future that provides quality housing, protects the environment, and enhances the overall well-being of our society.

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Charlotte Cooper

Charlotte Cooper

Content Writer at Commonplace