Homes must be built on London’s green belt to tackle housing crisis, warn business chiefs

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Building on the green belt would help relieve London’s ‘acute housing shortage’, Business LDN found
Building on the green belt would help relieve London’s ‘acute housing shortage’, Business LDN found

London needs a surge in house building in the suburbs and the green belt if the city is to capitalise on a once-in-a-generation chance to transform post-Covid, business chiefs warned on Tuesday.

The city’s “acute housing shortage both blights Londoners’ lives and constrains the capital’s international competitiveness”, the report by Business LDN found.

Researchers said that while brownfield land should be prioritised for redevelopment, this alone will not meet the scale of the city’s housing need and building on “poor quality” green belt land should be considered.

“London’s green belt was created to stop the city’s physical growth when its population was falling,” the report by Business LDN said.

“It mixes public open land which should be preserved and enhanced with poor-quality and inaccessible sites which serve no civic or environmental purpose. London’s green belt should be reviewed and the poor-quality parts which are close to existing or future transport nodes re-designated for sustainable, high-quality, well-designed residential development.”

City Hall analysis shows London now requires around 66,000 new homes a year to provide enough housing for current and future Londoners.

But only an average of around 36,000 a year are currently being built.

Construction in suburban London should be “refreshed” and planners have to think more “creatively about how land is allocated and optimised”, the report said.

Complaints from residents in outer boroughs about tower blocks have often seen high density housing plans opposed by local councils.

“Intensifying land use does not automatically mean building high-rise buildings, though such buildings have a place in the urban landscape,” the report said.

“A mix of mid-rise buildings, mansion blocks and terraced housing along traditional street patterns can be a very efficient use of land.”

It comes as Labour was today set to force a vote on ending the “feudal” leasehold system.

The party described the expected watering down of the Government’s pledge to abolish the system as a “scandal”.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove previously promised to introduce legislation to “fundamentally reform” the system,

But last week he suggested new laws would tackle “abuses” in the current leasehold system rather than eradicating it altogether.

Labour will today bring forward a vote on a motion that calls for “ending the sale of new private leasehold houses, introducing a workable system to replace private leasehold flats with commonhold and enacting the Law Commission’s recommendations on enfranchisement, commonhold and the right to manage in full”.

Shadow housing secretary Lisa Nandy said: “It is nothing short of a scandal that despite near-universal agreement that leasehold is a feudal form of tenure that should be a thing of the past, there is still no timetable for ending leasehold on new builds and introducing a workable system of commonhold.”