As the housing crisis becomes a higher and higher priority for the government, Arthur investigates calls are now being made to solve the problem by building houses on Britain’s green belt.
The green belt is not one place. It is a grouping of designated areas where urban growth is prevented, allowing for agriculture, forestry and outdoor leisure activities to prevail. Unsurprisingly, ‘green belt’ areas surround many major U.K. cities. The policy is supposed to protect some of the U.K.’s most beautiful areas.
However, as the lack of housing continues to pose a more and more immediate threat, calls are being made for the government to relax the policy. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an international think tank, recently suggested that planning permission is too restrictive in these areas and relaxing it would improve the housing crisis, and the economy. Other, more local, calls to relax planning have also recently been made in Oxford and Bristol.
The green belt currently consists of 1,638,760 hectares in England alone (one hectare is roughly one and a half football pitches), a huge amount of space in such a small country. Relaxing planning permission on ‘green belt’ sites could drastically reduce the lack of housing by opening up ‘brown field’ sites for construction; this may then have the effect of decreasing the cost of houses and stimulating the economy through a boost in construction.
When put like that, it seems like a no braining. But, the green belt is an important part of British society and culture. For those in deeply urban areas, like London, they offer an unseen benefit, improving air quality, alongside ensuring that there is rural space within a short distance of their home. Furthermore, the ‘green belt’ policy protects natural environments and important habitats for animals.
With other published reports stating that the U.K. housing crisis could be solved by building ten extra homes in each town, it remains to be seen whether Britons are willing to give up their green areas just yet.