- In December, the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer unveiled plans to develop the countryside and permit 3,300 new houses. The announcement comes only a few months after the release of new planning policies.
- Whilst this may hold some economic benefit in the short term, some suggest the longer- term implications may be negative as using the green belt has the potential to reduce public opportunities for recreation, biodiversity, flood defences and ecosystem service provision. There is concern that this may be the first of many waves of countryside development.
- On the other hand, it is argued that by taking a holistic view and freeing up a small percentage of land, well thought out planning (perhaps via a land swap scheme) could be used to help solve the UK housing problems and spur economic growth. There may be on going economic and social benefits of developing in these areas as, with rapid population rise, demand for housing will continue to increase.
- Campaign groups have suggested that perhaps an alternative may be the utilisation of the over 340 currently unused building plots (owned by developers, but which are not being worked on), and “brownfield” land said to be sufficient for 1.5 million new homes.
Implications and next steps: A delicate balancing act may be needed in order to reap the social and economic benefits of developments of this nature while simultaneously maintaining the environmental benefits provided by the green belt.