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Guarded support for Labour's 'grey belt' plans

Keir Starmer set out Labour’s policy for housebuilding this week and targeted ‘ugly’ parts of the Green Belt.

It will be a requirement under a Labour government that 50% of the homes built on this land should be affordable.

And he revealed his Party’s five golden rules for developing hitherto protected green belt land.

  1. Prioritising brownfield land within it for building
  2. Opting for “poor-quality and ugly” areas
  3. Ensuring at least 50 per cent of homes built are classed as affordable
  4. Boosting infrastructure such as schools and GP surgeries
  5. Improving green spaces such as parks and woodlands.


Labour’s Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner, re-named this ‘ugly’ green belt as ‘grey belt’, saying it “should not be off-limits”.

She said that it was not “rolling hills, but poor-quality scrubland, mothballed on the outskirts of town.”

Multiple levers

Commenting on the policy, Colin Brown, Head of Planning & Development, Carter Jonas said: “It is encouraging to see that Labour are at least attempting to grapple with the Green Belt conundrum.  I absolutely agree that there are many sites designated as Green Belt which do not reflect the public’s perception of what the Green Belt actually is, including previously developed sites.

“There is also some logic in prioritising the use of ‘Grey Belt’ land where releases are needed to meet housing requirements, however, a future Government will have to use multiple levers to genuinely achieve a step-change in housing delivery.

“This will include the inevitable need to deliver some development on current Green Belt land that does not neatly fit the ‘grey’ label.  There are many areas that simply do not have a legacy of brownfield land where more difficult decisions absolutely must be taken if we are to house our growing population, including, critically, those in current housing need.”

 The policy was also welcomed by the Housing Forum which said former garage sites are a prime example of land within greenbelts that should be better used for housing. They would also like to see a strategic approach to releasing greenbelt land, where necessary.

More strategic

 Director of Policy and Public Affairs, Anna Clarke said: “It’s good to build on brownfield sites where practical, but we know these are not sufficient to meet needs. Many cities, such as London have a growing population and huge levels of housing need. But they are unable to grow outwards because of greenbelts which were drawn up over 70 years ago.

We would like to see a more strategic approach to the greenbelt, with local authorities and city regions encouraged to work together. Central government should support these ambitions and not try to lock down the boundaries of greenbelts in perpetuity.”

But Conservative Party Chairman Richard Holden said the plans ignored the views of local people.

He said: "Only Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives will respect local communities building the right homes in the right places which has delivered one million homes over this Parliament and sticking to the plan to reduce inflation and get mortgage rates down to help first-time buyers."


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