Time for Government to review outdated Green Belt rules – London First
18 September 2019
Independent Citizens’ Jury of Londoners votes 11 – 1 in favour of reviewing London’s Green Belt to help build affordable homes.
An independent Citizens’ Jury of Londoners has overwhelmingly backed local reviews of London’s Green Belt to help tackle the housing crisis.
When presented with expert evidence on both sides of the argument, the Jury – convened on behalf of business campaign group London First — concluded that locally-led reviews of the Green Belt should go hand-in-hand with a clear commitment to deliver affordable homes.
Delivering their verdict, the jury said: “The majority was for and we only had one against. We came to that decision as a group as we realised that there is a terrible crisis for housing in London and that there is a big need for affordable and social housing for the people that live in London.”
The capital needs to build at least 65,000 homes each year to meet demand, according to the London Plan, the Mayor’s spatial strategy. For this to happen, significantly more land needs to be unlocked for development.
After hearing evidence over two sessions (1½ days in total) from expert witnesses which included London MPs, Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and town planners, the 11 – 1 majority of the jury concluded that:
Genuinely green areas of Green Belt are highly valued and should not be built on;
However, low-quality and brownfield land already in the Green Belt being used, for example, for car washes, rubbish dumps and construction yards, should be reviewed to see if they could be an appropriate location for new homes;
Green Belt swaps should also be supported – allowing green spaces to be created while low-quality and brownfield sites are taken out for potential development;
Appropriate design standards should form part of the process for any new development, with necessary infrastructure provided alongside new housing;
Any Green Belt review should be locally-led to ensure a transparent process and that local communities have a say.
Commenting on the Citizens’ Jury verdict, Jasmine Whitbread, Chief Executive of London First, said:
“When presented with the reality of the varying quality of the Green Belt, the Citizens’ Jury of Londoners backed action to help tackle the capital’s housing crisis.
“Of course we need to protect London’s green spaces, but this should not mean that low-quality land is safeguarded at all costs. There is nothing green and pleasant about a disused carwash.
“It’s time for the Government to review the outdated Green Belt rules and for politicians across London to start working with their local communities to explore how small sections could be released to support the delivery of more affordable homes.”
Jurors were selected to form a broad representation of Londoners (more details can be found in the notes to editors). At the start of the two sessions the jurors had a limited understanding of what the Green Belt is and the restrictions it imposes, perceiving it as exclusively green. They then heard from witnesses on both sides of the debate, before reaching their conclusion.
London First, the capital’s leading business group, commissioned Community Research to convene a group of Londoners, representing London’s demographics, to hear evidence from expert witnesses on both sides of the debate, while Dr Alan Mace, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Studies at LSE, acted as an impartial ‘juror’s friend’.
The Jury was recruited by a specialist research recruitment agency, from a database of people who have actively signed up to take part in research exercises. They were broadly reflective of Londoners in terms of demographic factors such as age and gender, and they came from 12 different boroughs. Jurors were also screened to make sure they were not working in a role in Local Authority Planning or for a housing developer or builder. Those active in politics or who have campaigned on environmental issues were also screened out so that the Jury could be formed of those who do not usually participate in the Green Belt debate. The Jury took place on July 22 and July 31.
The Jury heard from a cast of expert witnesses including: Steve O’Connell, Conservative London Assembly member for Croydon and Sutton; Paul Miner, Head of Strategic Plans and Devolution from Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE); Barney Stringer, Director of the planning and development consultancy Quod; and Siobhain McDonagh, Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden.
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