Earlier this year, LSE released their landmark report on a “21st Century Metropolitan Green Belt”. As part of their coverage of the report, the Architect’s Journal reached out to JTP’s Marcus Adams for his comment in their coverage. Here, he shares why we welcomed the report.
It’s been more than 80 years (1935) since policymakers first started discussing London’s Metropolitan Green Belt, and more than 60 years (1955) since it was first implemented. In the time since, London has changed dramatically: the city’s population dipped by two million only to climb back up to an all-time high; new transit connections such as the Victoria and Jubilee Lines have unlocked sites across the city; and even the Capital’s boundaries have changed dramatically to include what we now think of as Outer London.
And all this while there’s been an underprovision of new housing supply to the extent London may need up to 62,000 more homes a year over the next decade to deal with the backlog. Needless to say, the context within which the Metropolitan Green Belt was set has fundamentally changed.
We've forgotten that a Green Belt policy was meant to go hand-in-hand with a strategy for strategic growth.
Marcus Adams, JTP
Over time, we’ve also forgotten that a Green Belt policy was meant to go hand-in-hand with a strategy for strategic growth. When it was first implemented, post-war new towns provided housing growth and the green belt was there to complement the new neighbourhoods, but this approach faded with time. Today, despite some revived interest in new settlements, we haven’t yet found the next strategic policy that delivers housing growth at the scale required to meet demand.
In London, we know it’s time for a new strategic conversation about the Capital’s growth and this means understanding all the options. Some of these conversations are more straightforward – like remediating brownfield sites and identifying infill opportunities – and some, like tall buildings, are more impassioned. One of these tough appraisals is revisiting the Metropolitan Green Belt designation.
The number of new homes being approved on Green Belt land in England has increased five-fold in the years from 2009-10 to 2014-15.
We know that planning approvals are happening in the Green Belt already: a BBC report last year found that the number of new homes being approved on Green Belt land in England has increased five-fold in the years from 2009-10 to 2014-15. We also know that some authorities are already undertaking Green Belt reviews as they grapple with housing targets. If housing development on the Metropolitan Green Belt is a solution for at least some areas, as evidence suggests is already happening, then we need to engage with it as a concept to ensure we are delivering the best possible places.
Now is an ideal time to have this conversation and work out ways to create considered, sustainable neighbourhoods.
Marcus Adams, JTP
LSE: 'A 21st Century Metropolitan Green Belt' Report - Abercrombie's 'expanded' Green Belt
There is already a growing body of work from others that has carefully examined strategic locations for growth in the Green Belt, including brownfield land and sites in close proximity to existing rail or tube stations. This latest LSE report fills an important gap in addressing the Metropolitan Green Belt as a whole, reaching beyond the political and administrative boundaries that have limited the scope of much previous work. The fact that it stretches beyond political boundaries is positive and is a real opportunity to look beyond different planning authorities’ interests.
Now is an ideal time to have this conversation and work out ways to create considered, sustainable neighbourhoods, and a comprehensive review of the Metropolitan Green Belt will help London and the South East to strategically deliver new neighbourhoods with the best possible understanding of the options.