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Green Belt must be ditched to solve housing crisis: IEA

Green Belt regulations are standing in the way of young people getting on the housing ladder, a right-wing think-tank has claimed.

Mark Littlewood, director general of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), said the only “meaningful” way to resolve the housing crisis and build the required number of new and affordable homes was to sweep away out-dated rules protecting the Green Belt.

Mr Littlewood said: “The only meaningful way to solve the issue of unaffordable housing is to liberalise the planning system and build more homes.

“The concept of the Green Belt is widely out of date, as much of the land protected by Green Belt regulation is not environmentally valuable or scenic in the first place.”

He was commenting after a report was published by environmental group, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), warning against the abuse of planning regulations.

The report said there were 460,000 homes planned to be built on land that will soon be released from the Green Belt.

The CPRE report stated: “Moving Green Belt boundaries when reviewing local plans makes it easier for local authorities to release land for housing, but is only supposed to take place under ‘exceptional circumstances’.

“This strategic shrinking of the Green Belt, as a way of getting around its protected status, is as harmful as building on the Green Belt itself.”

But Mr Littlewood claimed that, because house prices have risen four and a half times since the 1970s, we are facing a crisis in the UK whereby there is simply not enough affordable housing.

He said: “No other OECD country’s experience has even come close. The UK’s housing crisis must be addressed, and even mild embrace of planning liberalisation is a step in the right direction.

“In essence, we are prioritising the protection of dump sites over the opportunity for young people to get on the housing ladder.”

But the CPRE report disagreed with such arguments, claiming building on the Green Belt was “not solving the affordable housing crisis, and will not do so”.

It pointed out that, in 2017, 72 per cent of homes built on greenfield land within the Green Belt were still unaffordable by the government’s own definition.

Andrew Montlake, director at Coreco, said: “Why should the new generation lose the Green Belt? There needs to be a proper joined up, long-term housing plan that is outside of party politics.

“It is never dealt with properly by any government despite being an election priority. They can deal with a better planning system, and better tax regimes, and so on.”

He added: “The government should have nationalised their own house builder and set to building proper affordable homes in areas needed.

“I do agree that empty homes should not be left empty for five years or more, however.”

Source: FT Adviser