Starmer proposes development of ‘grey belt’ land for housing

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has announced plans to utilise “ugly” sections of the green belt for housing development, potentially freeing up land for hundreds of thousands of homes, as reported by The Times.

In an interview with The Times, Starmer outlined his vision for creating a new category of “grey belt” land, designated for development despite lacking natural or aesthetic appeal. He emphasised that former industrial sites or disused car parks on green belt land should not be considered sacred.

While Labour prioritises building on brownfield sites, Starmer acknowledged that meeting housing demands may require releasing some green belt land. This move comes amidst controversy over Tory opposition to building on the green belt and the abandonment of mandatory housing targets by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Labour’s proposal seeks to redefine the green belt to encompass areas without permanent structures, such as car parks or unremarkable green spaces. This classification, termed “grey field,” could potentially unlock space for between 100,000 and 500,000 homes, according to industry estimates.

Under Starmer’s plan, development on the green belt would adhere to five “golden rules,” including prioritising brownfield sites, focusing on “poor-quality and ugly” areas, and ensuring at least 50% of homes built are affordable. Additionally, investments in infrastructure and improvements to green spaces would accompany any development.

Experts view this policy shift as transformative, enabling England to address its housing needs while preserving the majority of the green belt. They state the importance of strategic reviews to ensure that green belt areas serve their intended purpose of preventing urban sprawl. CPRE chief executive Roger Mortlock said:

“CPRE has long campaigned for a brownfield-first approach, more genuinely affordable housing, and an end to speculative development. We welcome Labour’s support for these policies. There are enough ‘shovel-ready’ brownfield sites in the UK for 1.2 million new homes – this is where we should start. 

We are concerned about the rhetoric. The Green Belt is crucial to solving the climate, nature, and food crises and it is protected by law for a reason. This new approach must be considered against this reality.

We must also abandon the existing piecemeal approach and look at the Green Belt as a whole. If done badly Labour’s policy could permit landowners to run-down land for speculative development. Instead, the Green Belt needs to deliver affordable homes on brownfield sites, while today’s scrubland can become the woodlands and wetlands of tomorrow.'”

One Response

  1. Releasing land for housing development has to be the No 1 priority. I’m sorry if it spoils your view. But providing young families with somewhere affordable to live is more important.

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