Academics at the London School of Economics are calling on local authorities to help solve the capital’s housing crisis by re-evaluating their greenbelt policies.
Three-quarters of businesses in London warn that the lack of new homes and soaring housing costs are “significant risk to the capital’s economic growth”, according to new research by the LSE’s Spatial Economics Research Centre and business group London First.
The study group identified areas of greenbelt land in London that are “unloved” and recommends that they should be used to build new homes on.
The study concludes that London needs to build at least double the rate of new homes to meet the demands of a burgeoning population.
Robert Holmes, an estate agent in Wimbledon says It suggests that this can be achieved by:
- Building new homes on “brownfield land first” at greater density;
- Making better use of surplus public land; and
- Enhancing the Mayor’s planning powers to get more houses built.
However, the report makes it clear that it’s unrealistic to assume that just building on brownfield sites would provide sufficient land to meet London’s housing requirements. Therefore, a re-evaluation of the Green Belt is required to help to solve London’s housing crisis.
To help meet London’s housing needs, London First is calling for the government to:
- Give the Mayor of London greater power to set tougher requirements on the London boroughs. Using the existing borough house building targets, the mayor should be able to financially reward those that meet them and take over planning decision-making from those that fail.
- Give the mayor the power to lead on identifying and disposing of strategic sites owned by the public sector that are surplus to requirements. London first notes that the Greater London Authority has a good track record in bringing forward surplus land for new housing and should be empowered to support all public sector landowners in London.
- Let London councils invest. London First says the arbitrary restrictions placed on local authorities’ housing revenue accounts that stop London boroughs borrowing prudentially to fund new housing should be scrapped.
London First chief executive Baroness Jo Valentine says: “If London is going to solve its housing crisis we need action on multiple fronts, including building at greater density, developing brownfield land and better use of the greenbelt.
“Building homes on brownfield land first is always the best option, but these sites are often very complicated, costly, and slow to bring forward.
“While London must continue to protect its valuable green spaces, the reality is the greenbelt is misunderstood.
“Parts of it are of no environmental or civic value, yet can be easily reached by public transport. These are the parts of the Green Belt that councils should be proactively looking at to accommodate more homes.”
The Green Belt is the ribbon of land around towns and cities that was designated in the aftermath of World War Two to stop urban sprawl. As this report points out, not all of it is of high environmental or amenity value. In fact, the ability for London to grow is restricted by its greenbelt land, which is why loosening rules restricting development on land is needed before Londoners become squeezed out of their own city by sky-high housing costs because supply cannot meet demand.
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