måndag 12 mars 2007

Land bonzanza as government caves in on Green Belt protection


"The forthcoming government white paper on planning will relax rural protection rules, which protects the countryside from urban sprawl, says an article in today's Guardian

"The Queen, British Aerospace and BP will make billions of pounds from developing the greenbelt under proposals to meet government housing targets. Research by the Guardian and the Campaign to Protect Rural England shows at least 10,000 acres of greenbelt land are likely to be sacrificed to build some of the biggest developments in Britain in the past 30 years. In addition, speculators have bought large areas of greenbelt land.

"BP stands to make nearly £10bn if its advanced plans to build 20,000 houses on 3,700 acres of greenbelt land that it owns in Hertfordshire are accepted. The Crown Estate, which manages property owned by the Queen, could make up to £500m from the development of 6,000 homes near the A1 (M), while Arlington Securities, the former property arm of British Aerospace, hopes to make £3bn from the sale of some of its greenbelt land at Hatfield. Six Oxfordshire landowners, including Thames Water, Magdalen and Brasenose colleges, are lobbying planners to release thousands of acres of their greenbelt. Thames and Magdalen stand to make more than £300m if their plans for up to 8,500 houses are approved..."

The government plans to capture some of this added value through the Planning Gain Supplement, but if it tries to capture more than a trivial proportion of it, a lot of the development will not happen. Whether it is really needed is another matter, as, at the same time, the drift away from the north continues, and people of working age are leaving the south-west, with their homes being snapped up by retired people and for use for holidays. We can also be certain that even when all the new housing is built, it will do nothing to solve the apparent shortage in those places with the most jobs and the best transport links. It is a blueprint for social and environmental disaster.

What are needed are policies
(1) to distribute economic activity more evenly over the country as a whole
(2) to ensure that the best use is made of existing developed land and buildings
(3) to capture ALL land value, not just a little bit of that released by planning consents.

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