Think tank makes case for a million new homes on London’s green belt

London’s housing crisis could be eased by building a million homes on the 3.7% of green belt within walking distance of a rail station, says a new report from think tank the Adam Smith Institute.

It argues that much of the protected land is not environmentally valuable – 37% of London’s green Belt is intensively farmed agricultural land. It also contends that the green belt has negative environmental effects, leading to more land being devoted to transport infrastructure and to more pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. It argues that green belt policy is preserving green space around the well-off at the expense of rarer green space near the badly-off in England’s cities.

The report, The green noose: An analysis of green belts and proposals for reform, puts forward three policy initiatives to reform the effect of urban containment policies on house prices, house sizes, house price volatility, costs to business and the environment.

They are:

  • Abolition of the green belt combined with adequate protection for areas of real environmental, heritage or amenity value
  • Removal of green belt designations from all intensive agricultural land
  • Removal of green belt designations from all intensive agricultural land within half a mile of a railway station – this option may be easier to achieve politically but would only provide a stopgap solution.

Author of the report Tom Papworth said: “Britain faces an acute housing crisis, especially around its major metropolitan centres. Yet land is available in abundance. It is a myth that Britain is densely populated or highly built-up compared to similar countries.”

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