The debate arising from the Housing White Paper consultation which closed last week is hotting up as respondents seek to apply pressure on the government as it considers responses and on the main political parties as their manifestos are finalised.
A group of housing organisations, including the National Housing Federation, Shelter and the British Property Federation have criticised the paper’s approach to the Green Belt as too weak.
In their response to the potential change in policy requiring local authorities to have explored all alternatives before amending Green Belt boundaries, the NHF notes: “we believe the key test should be deliverability of non green-belt land. If it cannot accommodate all of its housing need on non-green belt land, then local authorities should be encouraged to undertake strategic reviews of their green belt, if this means that it would provide opportunities for sustainable development.”
The British Property Federation in a more hard hitting attack dismissed the need to justify Green Belt release by demonstrating a lack of alternatives: “We believe that there should be no sequential test for Green Belt land release in national policy. The sensible thing to do is for Government to begin thinking about the role Green Belt plays today rather than how the policy was intended when it was first founded.”
The BPF argues further for a change in approach and attitudes, calling: “We would suggest that the best approach would be to focus on Green Belt release as not always being the worst option rather than the option of last resort.”
As the sector already knows, the political battle over the future of Green Belt in the UK has been raging anew as the Housing White Paper has been brought forward.
The retention of Green Belt first and foremost remains popular with the electorate, having only recently contributed to the surprise success of the Conservatives new West Midlands Metro Mayor who has pledged a mixture of prioritising brownfield development and seeking to lower the number of empty homes.
With party manifestos expected to start appearing in full form from next week, we’ll soon know more about how the May government intends to satisfy its desire to get more homes delivered, without causing strife within its heartlands.