Archive for March, 2015

In defence of the Green Belt: two recent newpaper letters

Attacks on the Green Belt are nothing new, but they do appear to be growing. The attacks are not coming, on the whole, from national politicians: there is an election soon, and politicians know how popular the Green Belt is. Indeed, Eric Pickles has just reiterated that ‘the essential characteristics of green belts are their openness and their permanence’.

The fact that we continue to lose alarming areas of Green Belt locally contradicts the rhetoric. I heard countless examples of Green Belt loss at a packed public meeting last night in Luton, organised by CPRE Bedfordshire, CPRE Hertfordshire and the Chiltern Society, and I know there are examples across the country (CPRE will be publishing a major report on this tomorrow). But I suppose it is some sort of consolation to hear national politicians queuing up to say how much they love the Green Belt, and that it will be safe with them next time.

But the attacks on Green Belt policy from the commentariat and developer-funded think-tanks are relentless. A recent edition of Radio 4’s Costing the Earth had in the anti-Green Belt camp not only the full-time anti-Green Belt polemicist, Paul Cheshire, but also Sir Simon Jenkins, former Chair of the National Trust, and Danny Dorling, who has argued persuasively against the simplistic view that simply building more houses will solve the housing crisis. (It was notable that Tom Heap, the presenter, could not find any ‘ordinary people’ to blame the Green Belt for their high house prices and long commutes.)

In the last week CPRE has had letters in defence of the Green Belt in the Observer and Independent. My letter in the Observer was in response to an excellent critique of the housing crisis by Rowan Moore. Paul Miner’s letter in the Independent responded to a piece by Ian Birrell which skilfully summarised almost every misconception about the Green Belt peddled by Paul Cheshire and the anti-planning, developer-funded think-tanks.

The letters are below. In the summer, CPRE will be publishing a report on anti-Green Belt myths, working title, Pestilential Nonsense Unmasked. Continue reading ‘In defence of the Green Belt: two recent newpaper letters’

Housing and intergenerational fairness

The Intergenerational Foundation has been running an excellent series of blogs on the housing crisis, with interesting postings from people such as Danny Dorling (whose book I wrote about in an earlier blog), Shelter’s Toby Lloyd, and Legal and General’s chief executive Nigel Wilson (who writes about the need to provide housing for older people). In my blog I get cross about politicians crying crocodile tears about housing affordability. Continue reading ‘Housing and intergenerational fairness’

Election hustings: can we get a greener Britain?

One of the myths of British politics is that people do not vote on green issues. In fact, seats are won or lost on the environment, albeit generally the local environment. Local politicians know the intensity of feeling about litter, street cleaning and the state of public parks. In national elections, housing is a big issue, particularly new housing in the countryside when more sustainable alternatives are available.

Continue reading ‘Election hustings: can we get a greener Britain?’