Green belts and corporate land banks

In his papers, “The Homes London Needs: Part 1 & Part 2“, Chris Walker of Policy Exchange assumes that building on the green belt is politically impossible. I think that in the public mind “green belt” may mean any land within 100 miles of Central London. This leaves brownfield development and densification as the only solutions.


Brownfield sites are more expensive to develop both in money and environmental terms. They would better be converted into green urban parks such as happened at St Nicholas Fields in York. The Barker Review of Housing Supply (2004), reported that urban parks were valued 60 times as much as urban fringe green belt by the public. (Table 2.1: Benefits from different land use)


If densification means higher buildings then embodied carbon should be considered. This measures the greenhouse gasses due to construction. High buildings usually have enormous embodied carbon pushing climate further to the danger zone.


The Guardian reports that major house builders are sitting on 600, 000 housing plots and bring them into the market only when the price is right. Chris Walker’s essays seem to accept the situation, where corporate interests benefit greatly from the planning system. When planning permission is scarce, its value is very large – £(many tens of thousands) for a house.


Perhaps we should revisit one housing model that existed before the 1947 planning act and allow people to have individual plots with individually held planning permission.

Starter homes could then be as little as £25,000 – roughly a tenth of existing prices.

Also, could plotland development – on the green belt if necessary – cause “A shock to the housing market” and loosen up some of the corporate land banks?

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