Letter: Green belt housing

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The Independent Online
Sir: Although Nicholas Schoon is correct in saying that the Government is expecting local planning authorities to make provision for 4.4 million new households by 2016 ("Historic challenge to the nation's Green Belt", 16 October), he neglects to point out that this expansion will be heavily concentrated in the South-east.

The Government needs to consider just how realistic it is to continue to expect local planning authorities like Hertfordshire to cater for this level of growth within the confines of existing planning policy.

It is obviously important that adequate land for new housing is allocated, otherwise prices in some areas will rise dramatically, more young people will be forced to continue living with their parents longer and more people will find themselves homeless.

In the absence of a coherent national response to this problem, authorities like Hertfordshire are bound to make the best effort they can within the existing framework.

The Royal Town Planning Institute favours a "sequential test" for new housing. This, along with appropriate tax incentives, would force housebuilders to give priority to brownfield sites within existing built-up areas.

Even with such a policy, the reality is that at least half of new housing will have to be on non-urban sites. A range of solutions, including town and village expansion and New Towns will be required. While Green Belts still have validity, in many areas their boundaries could be modified to provide useful development land, especially in places where there are good public transport links.

Society as a whole has to cope with the reality of more marriage breakdowns, people living longer and more young people wishing to live by themselves. Town planners and local planning authorities must be realistic in their allocation of sites and Green Belts can no longer be sacrosanct.


Senior Vice President

Royal Town Planning Institute

London W1