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Building on brownfield is great, but we need to release green belt too

UK's most senior planning lawyer has responded to criticism by an estate agent of his call for developers to build on green belt land.

Nigel Lewis

Last month The Negotiator published an article in which David Cooper, the UK’s most senior planning lawyer, called for the green belt to be ‘scrapped’ and that the policy was the ‘worst thing that ever happened to the ‘economics of this country’

In response Neil Knight, a senior executive from Spicer Haart, responded to Cooper’s comments, saying that although he understood the planning frustrations caused by the green belt, critics of the policy like Cooper should instead concentrate on freeing up brownfield sites first.

Cooper has now responded to Knight, saying: “I never said that we shouldn’t be using brownfield sites for regeneration purposes, but that they are often in the wrong location and are contaminated.

“They often have poor access and more importantly the purchasers of the houses do not want to live there and that is the most important point of the lot.

“If the buyers don’t want to live there, house builders don’t want to take the risk to develop it and there isn’t suitable or sufficient supply around to fill the gap.

Tiny proportion

“It is all very well saying there are 11,997 houses being released in the greenbelt; however the 12.4% of the country’s land that is greenbelt represents god knows how many hectares. So it is a tiny, tiny proportion.

“Then you have to look at the circumstances as to why these green belt sites have been released. Normally they have been made available because the greenbelt has been released from the local plan. I repeat again what I said on numerous occasions on the greenbelt, ‘the answer is NO, what is the question?’.

“Very Special Circumstances [for green belt release] have never been defined by the government and never been defined by the Planning Inspectorate.


“It causes a nightmare and huge expense for a developer to even put their foot in the water. I repeat again, that the principle of Location, Location, Location is what it is all about and most of these industrial sites are inappropriate, not suitable, badly served by transport and simply not appealing for all the reasons that everyone knows.

“One can keep repeating and repeating; “Let’s release the brownfield sites first” and of course the housing problem just gets worse.

There is only one solution and that is to release the land around the greenbelt, to loosen it. There is a vast number of acres to do this and the harm, if any, is HUGELY outweighed by the benefit.”


September 23, 2019

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