A Government White Paper which sets out mechanisms for swapping Green Belt development land has been welcomed by development specialists at Bruton Knowles’ Guildford office.
Town Planner Paul Barton said the idea – to lift protection from likely development land inside the Green Belt and bolt it on elsewhere could be one way out of the UK’s housebuilding impasse.
“The Government has floated the idea of using Green Belt ‘swaps’ in order to be able to develop new homes within the Green Belt – without diminishing the Green Belt.
“It’s this sort of joined up thinking that is needed if the Government is to get anywhere near its current new homes target – without alienating a significant segment of its support base.
“We have argued for some time that building strictly within Brownfield sites will not deliver new homes in the volume needed to satisfy demand.”
The problem is particularly acute in and around Guildford – where house prices average £340,000 and almost ninety per cent of the borough falls within the Green Belt.
“Venturing on to Green Belt sites generally provokes widespread opposition from countryside agencies and neighbours – a great many of which appear to be sufficient to defeat proposals being brought forward.
“Enabling developers to propose land swaps could be an effective means of influencing opinion on otherwise sustainable sites within the Green Belt.”
Paul Barton said while critics might decry the ‘watering down’ of the Green Belt he felt some compromise was required.
“The Government has given the strongest possible hints that they are prepared to look at areas of the Green Belt once considered sacrosanct – and we agree a more realistic scheme is necessary to cope with the enormous increase in populations since it was brought in during the 1930s.
“In our view, realistic amendments such as land swaps will protect a greater area of the Green Belt in the longer term than simply building the barricades against any sort of development, ever.
“On the face of it, it seems a good idea that if protected land is lost, then protected land is created elsewhere, although no doubt some will argue doing so will assist urban sprawl, something the Green Belt was created to restrain.”
“We will need some clarification on how proposed swap deals are going to stand up to scrutiny as ‘green belt’ but it’s clear these sort of ideas should be looked at very carefully by all stakeholders whether local or national if we are to move forward.”