With a 0.3% decrease in England’s Green Belt, poll-voters now more likely to support new homes near them, and a call by the Prime Minister’s Cabinet colleagues for a relaxation of the rules on development in the Green Belt, are we about to witness a change in policy on Green Belt?

The extent of the designated Green Belt in England as at 31 March 2018 was estimated at 1,629,510 hectares, around 12.5% of the land area of England, most of which was designated in the 1930’s and 1940’s and has remained unchanged ever since, and has become the religion of many wanting to stop new homes and communities being built.

Theresa May’s renewed push to deliver the homes the country has already angered her critics, labelling her vision as unachievable. Her Cabinet colleagues are also calling for a relaxation of strict rules when it comes to Green Belt, although anyone will know that support for this will quickly evaporate in the run-up to an election.

The contradiction that is public opposition to Green Belt development and support for new homes remains ever-present. What is needed is a significant liberalisation of planning laws, but this would be political suicide, especially for the Tories: all eyes on Guildford and Mole Valley during next year’s local elections to witness the nature of debate in the marginal authorities of Guildford and Mole Valley.

Green Belt is perceived as a popular choice by developers to generate a quick and easy return, but many overlook the opportunity to present a development opportunity which can deliver associated benefits quickly, compared with brownfield and contaminated sites.

London’s property market is sluggish, yet local authorities are concerned that future housing delivery targets are impossible in the draft London Plan, which is being subject to a review, adding the risk of further pressure to the Metropolitan Green Belt surrounding the Capital.

Can there ever be a positive dialogue regarding development on the Green Belt? Of course there can. Green Belt policy has long been dictated by the voters and not the planners. By shifting the debate and engaging communities (and voters) early in meaningful engagement, can allow opportunities in the Green Belt, whilst offering clear and tangible community benefits which are advocated by development neighbours.

How can TFA help?

Our team has extensive knowledge of working on sites within the Green Belt, and can assist with engaging campaigns, with a strong track-record in fostering advocacy and support for developments.