Our green belts were a consequence of the Town and Country Planning Act 1947, they were designed for controlling urban growth. In 1947 the UK population was 50 million, now it is 64 million. In England alone the green belt covers more than 1.6 million hectares, this encircles 14 urban areas and about 30 million people, forcing ever higher population densities, which means less room for everyone, smaller homes, often with no gardens, built so close to each other that there is no privacy, which results in a seriously degraded quality of life.
Not only that, our rabbit hutch houses cost utterly ridiculous amounts of money, especially when you consider that nice detached family homes can be built for just £100,000. The shortage of building land is the ONLY factor that has made our housing market into an out of control bubble that is the most serious single issue harming the people of Britain today.
The answer is glaringly obvious. Build on the greenbelt. Make planning permission a quick, rubber stamp procedure. Force all planning authorities to issue new planning permissions equal to at least 10% of their current housing stock every year. We need half a million new homes annually for several years just to start catching up with where we need to be. Our towns and cities should grow naturally and organically, just as they did for centuries before the 1947 act.
The NIMBYs will call this “concreting over” the countryside. But they lie. Here’s why:
- What would you rather see, a charming Cotswold village or industrial rape fields extending to the horizon? So let’s build the villages. We could start work building 10,000 new villages of 3,000 people each and still have a green and pleasant land. That’s homes for 3 million people.
- Our country is amazingly undeveloped. The best measure is from the UK National Ecosystem Assessment (UK NEA), they calculated that 6.8% of the UK’s land area is now classified as urban, 10.6% in England, 1.9% in Scotland, 3.6% in N. Ireland and 4.1% in Wales. But in England 78.6% of this urban area is designated as natural rather than built so the percentage of England’s landscape which is actually given over to homes is a ridiculously small 2.27%.
- National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest total 29% of the total area of England. These provide a high level of protection and ensure we keep our countryside.
- The National trust owns more than 300 historic buildings, mostly castles and stately homes with their grounds. In addition they own more than 618,000 acres of farmland and many parks, gardens and stretches of coastline. The National Trust Acts grant the Trust the unique statutory power to declare land inalienable. So it will remain undeveloped for posterity. The National Trust for Scotland is a separate organisation and owns a whole lot more.
- The Ministry of Defence owns about 230,000 acres of land. Much of this is open countryside. And they need to keep this for playing with their toys and for making loud bangs on.
- In London there are the following parks (and very many large gardens). All British cities are similar. As we expand housing into the green belt we can create many new parks, which are far more pleasant than industrialised farms
- Green Park 16 ha (39.5 acres)
- St. James’s Park 34 ha (84 acres)
- Greenwich Park 73 ha (180 acres)
- Hyde Park 140 ha (346 acres)
- Kensington Gardens 111 ha (274 acres)
- Regent’s Park 197 ha (486.79 acres)
- Bushy Park 450 ha (1,112 acres)
- Richmond Park 955 ha (2,359.85 acres)
- More of Surrey is now under golf courses – about 2.65% – than has houses on it. Which is criminal. The planners should be utterly ashamed of themselves.
So you can see that we can get rid of the green belt, most of which is unsightly industrial farming, and replace it with pleasant homes and gardens at very affordable prices. Whilst still keeping nearly all our countryside. This is what Great Britain needs.
Other articles in this series (click highlighted text to open article):