One of the UK’s most senior planning lawyers has called for the Green Belt to be scrapped and described it as ‘the worst thing that ever happened to the economics of this country’.
David Cooper, who has won several landmark planning cases in the worlds of commercial and residential property, is most famous for negotiating Arsenal FC’s move from its original Highbury home to the Emirates Stadium in 2006.
But the lawyer’s latest project is a personal campaign to lobby for major reforms to the UK’s planning laws and help solve the housing crisis.
This began with a letter to The Times in March this year in which he mauled the government’s new national planning framework.
This, he says, will not solve the real problem of a ‘scarcity of land with planning consent in the right places’.
“This has been caused primarily by planning restrictions, and in particular the policy of retaining the Green Belt,” his letter said.
But Cooper (pictured, left) has told The Negotiator that he is now calling for the Green Belt to be “totally released” and that “we shouldn’t have it at all”.
“I am a great cynic about the planning policy; 99% of the [housing] problem is caused by the Green Belt and it’s there to protect the middle classes from social housing and property developers and all the nasty people that they don’t want anywhere near them,” he says.
“There’s so much wrong with housing legislation I don’t know where to start. The whole thing is topsy-turvy.”
His views are directly at odds with the Council for the Protection of Rural England, which for many decades has defended the Green Belt.
“Many reports focus on weakening Green Belt protection to allow greater freedom for large housebuilders,” it says.
“However, the arguments within these reports are based on a highly selective reading of the evidence and give little consideration to the wide range of benefits provided by Green Belt policy.”