Agenda item


To receive an introduction by Professor Alan Mace, London School of Economics.



RECEIVED a report from Dr Alan Mace of the London School of Economics on ‘A 21st Century Metropolitan Green Belt’. A copy of the full report can be obtained from





(i)              Dr Mace provided some background information on the report, and explained that it had been compiled by colleagues from the London School of Economics with a range of different views on the Green Belt, all of whom were interested in ways to change or amend the policy to achieve broader aims.

(ii)             In summary the aim was to look at issues from a wider South East perspective. There was a need to supply more homes due to the housing crisis, as well as thinking about broader quality of houses.

(iii)            Since 1995, policy has been for the majority of building to take place on brownfield land, and indeed this is an important and necessary option. But in practice brownfield cannot supply enough land to meet projected housing needs.

(iv)           The Metropolitan Green Belt (MGB) commands strong support from local people, politicians and central government. No radical review or reform is currently being contemplated; government guidance makes clear that the current size of the MGB is more or less set. Opponents argue there is confusion over what the MGB is. They argue that it mainly consists of intensive agriculture and golf courses, meaning that much of it offers little in the way of amenity to the general public.

(v)            Defenders of the MGB sometimes express a fear that any de-designation would open the floodgates to new developments. In fact, though, there has been continual incremental change, and the absence of an overall plan for change has led to piecemeal development in the MGB.

(vi)           Further information was provided on various aspects of the report including the growth of the Metropolitan Green Belt, the purpose and value of the MGB, the various options being looked at and translating reform ideas into practice.

(vii)          The report concludes that significant change and reforming the MGB is necessary. However this needs to be approached through a calm, reasonable discussion of alternative approaches and how some combination of these could actually and acceptably be implemented for the long term, in ways that unfreeze housing supply in the region, enhance environmental sustainability and contribute to a coherent long term form of spatial development across this vital region.

(viii)        The report offers some ideas to assist in this process and commends these to those who could actively shape the necessary processes of change.


Following Dr Mace’s several comments and questions were raised including:

Q.           Central Government wants to reduce immigration into the country. Is this being taken into account when projecting future housing needs?

A.            We do look at these projections. London is on target to be a mega city by 2030. It may well be that we don’t have the population growth which is currently projected. However we do need to keep building at a higher level of builds.

Q.           Developers currently stagger the release of properties on Brownfield Land. Will this not be the same for Green Belt Land?

A.            We are not suggesting that building on Green Belt Land will supply quick term solutions. It is however just another contribution to add to the pot of options.

Q.           Transport across London is already working at capacity, including new projects. Would there have to be some sort of ring fencing for infrastructure upgrades to cope with the increased pressures?

A.            We need to be very mindful of this. For example the idea of Cross Rail 2 is to relieve pressures on our railways. We would not therefore want to counteract this by building more houses.

Q.           How much Green Belt would be required?

A.            We thought it would be useful to take a planned approach. We want to communicate to people that this is a once in a generation change. We have avoided not committing to any actual figures. At the top end we are looking at 4% overall based on the railway station model.

Q.           Some years ago Mayor Johnson spoke about producing a list of all Brownfield sites. Was this ever produced?

A.            There is a London Portal Website where you can view all the publicly owned Brownfield sites. Privately owned were not as easily registered. There are always huge arguments over what is private and public land.


A resident concluded the discussion by saying that there is always going to be more Brownfield sites coming on line.  More investigation into this should take place rather than using Green Belt Land for a population increase that may never happen. There should a much more cautious approach taken when talking about losing Green Belt Land as once it’s gone it’s gone.


The Chair thanked Dr Mace for his interesting and informative report and invited him to return to a future meeting to provide a further update. Dr Mace thanked the Chair for the opportunity to attend tonight’s meeting and said that he would be more than happy to return at a later date.

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