Conservative Orientated Think Tank
Better Homes Greener Cities
Although this is about cities, it addresses many of the issues experienced in Maidenhead
The need for change
The planning system should aim to balance people’s housing demands against the needs of the environment. By using only a further one or two per cent of the 90 per cent of land that is undeveloped, the quality of British houses and neighbourhoods could be dramatically improved.
Yet our system of town and country planning too often imposes the views of politicians, officials and planners on the population at large.We are told we ought to consume less land, to live in flats not houses, but rarely does anyone ask: “how do people themselves want to live?”
House prices and opinion polls clearly show that the British prefer to live in detached homes with gardens in green suburbs, but the planning system restricts this kind of development and instead delivers high-rise living in ever more crowded cities.
So despite just ten per cent of the land in the UK being urban, new development takes place on the kinds of green spaces people actually use – like allotments, playing fields, parks and gardens – in order to save agricultural land. Nearly half the UK’s playing fields have disappeared in the last fifteen years.
Front gardens 22 times the size of Hyde Park have been lost in London alone.
Our cities are becoming grey deserts.
This has serious implications for the health of the 50 million Britons who live in urban and suburban areas. Neighbourhoods with less greenery are associated with lower levels of physical activity, leading to higher obesity rates.
Easy access to green space also brings mental health benefits. Reversing the trend of high density development in favour of ‘garden city’ living is not just what most people want, it is good for us too.
A copy of the document Better Homes Greener Cities here
Cites for Growth
We cannot only build on brownfield land. Government data show there might be enough vacant and derelict brownfield land for a million homes, not enough to supply demand for more than a few years.
In London, there is such brownfield land for just 30,000 homes, yet more than a million extra people are expected move to the city in the coming decades and housing is already very expensive.
While some commercial and retail space could be converted into housing, our commercial space is expensive by international standards and we need more office and retail space that is suitable for modern needs. We cannot only redevelop this.
Our brownfield obsession is like our focus on the 1% of property that is longterm vacant and on the 1% of second homes. It avoids focusing on what we need – which is to build attractive homes on some greenfield sites.