Wednesday April 17 2024.

3 minute read

The Greenbelt: a general election battleground.

Since the Greenbelt was introduced in the 1950s to limit the sprawl of cities, it has largely been protected by policymakers. However, ahead of the upcoming general election, battle lines are being drawn between Conservatives and Labour regarding its role and purpose, amid a wider planning debate.

Given that the traditional Conservative voter base is typically in areas where there is a high percentage of Greenbelt land, it makes sense that their political instinct is to protect it at all costs.

Most recently, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Housing, introduced new policy changes which mean that councils cannot be compelled to release green belt land to meet their housing targets. The effects of this amendment are already being seen, with some councils changing their Draft Local Plans, to remove additional homes on green belt sites.

The Labour Party, however, has suggested that it is open to change. Shadow Housing Minister, Matthew Pennycook, has commented that in areas where housing need has not been met and all ‘low quality land’ has been used, local authorities should consider green belt release to meet housing targets.

Lost in this debate are the facts. Roughly 12 per cent of land in England is designated as the Greenbelt and across the 15 Greenbelts that surround English cities, 93 per cent is undeveloped.

Behind the political battle that is taking shape is the inescapable reality that the UK needs to build millions of new homes to catch up with its growing population. Beyond housing, there is also a shortage of strategic employment land to fulfil the needs of business.

The Greenbelt, for some people, conjures up images of beautiful green fields, however, this is sometimes far from the reality. Labour has talked of building on the ‘greybelt’, referring to parcels of disused car parks, petrol stations and other brownfield sites within the Greenbelt as places to build.

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, nevertheless seems to be continuing with policies that protect the Greenbelt, ahead of the Mayoral elections in May. If he is re-elected and Sir Keir Starmer is the next Prime Minister after the general election, this will place the Mayor in direct contradiction to a Labour Government.

In addition to their stances on the Greenbelt, the two major parties are separating themselves on the wider issue of planning. Labour is offering an alternative route to increasing housing supply that includes giving Metro Mayors powers over planning and housing investment and fast tracking approval for urban brownfield sites.

Planning reforms have also been proposed by Michael Gove, including naming and shaming councils who block ‘legitimate’ housing proposals, and even going as far as to say that the Government could remove their planning powers.

With the general election approaching, and around a fifth of voters citing housing as a major issue, it is safe to say that planning will remain a policy battleground, especially in areas with a lack of housing supply and growth.

May 01, 2024

5 minute read

Mayoral elections: who’s who in the battles to lead our regions?

As devolution deals continue to be struck across England, mayors are becoming some of the most powerful and recognisable people in our politics.

Apr 17, 2024

3 minute read

The Greenbelt: a general election battleground

Since the Greenbelt was introduced in the 1950s to limit the sprawl of cities, it has largely been protected by policymakers. However, ahead of the upcoming general election, battle lines are being drawn between Conservatives and Labour regarding its role and purpose, amid a wider planning debate.

Written by

Natasha Kendall

Account Director

Read more about The Greenbelt: a general election battleground

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