Leading land agent Aston Mead is calling on the government to identify which areas of the Green Belt could be earmarked for new housing, to reassure the public about the type of land involved.
The company says that concern about building on protected land would diminish, once people understood what sort of locations were being considered.
Aston Mead Land & Planning Director Adam Hesse said: “For years, we’ve been saying that building on green belt land is inevitable. But it’s only in the last month that the Housing Secretary has admitted it too.
“Now he needs to explain which sort of sites are under discussion – because we believe that most people wouldn’t have even considered many of them to be green belt in the first place. Once they discover that they are mostly grubby scraps of land next to railway lines or road junctions, the vast majority will be on our side!”
Adam Hesse points out that the general public has a fundamental misunderstanding about what the concept of green belt land means.
He explained: “There’s this persistent idea that that green belt land has an inherent ecological or agricultural value, or that it has natural beauty or protected wildlife. But this is simply not the case. Having a Green Belt is just a limit on development land supply, and it’s essentially arbitrary.
“Of course, there are areas of the Green Belt which should be protected – but they could be turned into Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), National Parks, protected woodland, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), or Conservation Areas, as appropriate.
“But much of it is what I call ‘grubby’ green belt – often close to existing town or city centres, where it tends to push house building into genuinely valuable parts of the countryside. All of which has meant longer commuting times, increased expense and more pollution.
Adam Hesse points to a particular case of greenbelt land in Surrey, which he suggests contains all the right ingredients for planning permission to be obtained and is a prime contender for the sort of location where new homes might even enhance the area.
He added: “For example, there’s a patch of land near Junction 11 of the M25. There are over 20 acres of uninspiring green belt there, big enough for over 200 homes. It’s within walking distance of Addlestone station, there are hundreds of existing homes nearby, and the network of roads around it would prevent further development once it was built. Most people wouldn’t even realise this is green belt land and few people would miss it if it was built on.
“The truth is there are hundreds of similar sites all over the UK. But if we classify them all as ‘Green Belt’ and therefore put them out of reach of developers, the government will never hit its housing targets.”