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Property consultant wades into debate over Green Belt

Property consultant wades into debate over Green Belt
Gareth Fuller/PA

Green Belt land must be released for house building despite environmental objections if the UK is to meet its housing requirements, a national property consultant has said.

Colin Brown, head of planning at Carter Jonas, waded into the debate over the use of Green Belt land by saying there were strong economic and environmental reasons for building much-needed affordable homes on it.

He said: "The new national planning policy framework (NPFF) makes it absolutely clear that land can only be removed from the Green Belt in ‘exceptional circumstances’ and that strong evidence would be needed to support this case.

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"National advice is therefore very strongly in favour of protecting the Green Belt.

"However, we need to find a range of sites if the country’s housing requirements are to be met – and that will mean still releasing sites from the Green Belt where there are no reasonable alternatives."

Earlier this week, FTAdviser reported on the backlash against the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA), which came out strongly in favour of building on the Green Belt to provide affordable and starter homes for the young.

On Monday 6 August, Mark Littlewood, director general of the IEA, provoked controversy by saying the solution to the housing crisis 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"The concept of the Green Belt is widely out of date, as much of the land protected by Green Belt regulation is not environmentally valuable or scenic in the first place."

But advisers and mortgage brokers expressed concern over reclaiming green belt land to build affordable houses. 

At the time, 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."

Martin Stewart, founder of London Money, told FTAdviser : "If I were fortunate enough to be considered a youth, I'd be offended that I was being told that destruction of nature was my only hope of gaining a foot on the housing ladder."

But according to Mr Brown, building on brownfield sites can be more complicated and expensive - and, as a result, developments can take longer.

He explained: "In Cambridgeshire, we have had a number of cases where the far greater cost of developing brownfield sites has led to less affordable housing particularly in the early phases of development when site infrastructure costs are huge."

"For instance at Northstowe, a new town of 10,000 homes, the first phase of 1,500 homes only has 20 per cent affordable housing against a requirement of 40 per cent in the Local Plan.