Mayor of London drops Green Belt Protection 2 days before Local Elections

Just a few days before millions of Londoners set out to vote for the next Mayor, the Telegraph reported that London Mayor Sadiq Khan had dropped his longstanding pledge to protect Green Belt. The decision brought the independently minded Labour Mayor in line with national Labour policy on the Green Belt; it is not sacrosanct.

Over the past year since Labour first began to mention its intention to carry out a Green Belt review, Sir Keir Starmer MP, Angela Rayner MP, her predecessor Lisa Nandy MP, and Matthew Pennycook MP have coined and repeated the term, ‘Grey Belt’.

On the 19th April, Labour released their ‘Five Golden Rules’ regarding the designation of poor quality Green Belt land as Grey Belt, giving more concrete policy direction and likely cementing all or most of these points into their General Election Manifesto. The Golden Rules are:

  1. Continue to follow a ‘Brownfield First’ approach and would always intend to build on brownfield sites rather than Green Belt.
  2. Follow a ‘Grey Belt Second’ approach, building on wastelands and old car parks within the Green Belt.
  3. Developments on the Green Belt would deliver at least 50% affordable housing and would put an end to Green Belt developments with affordable housing as low as 10%.
  4. Developments on the Green Belt would come with adequate investments into infrastructure and public services.
  5. Protect genuine green space and any loss of Green Belt would always be accompanied by the development of new woodlands, parks and other green infrastructure. Labour would also look to ensure high environmental standards that go beyond the legal minimum BNG.

It will be no coincidence that these Five Golden Rules and Sadiq Khan’s manifesto change have come so soon after one another. London faces the worst housing crisis in the country with recent analysis of the London Plan stating there would be a 150,000-housing shortfall.

While Khan will want to continue following a Brownfield First policy, there will be a large amount of Green Belt within London that would likely be redesignated as Grey Belt by an incoming Labour government.  A Labour spokesperson has responded to the Telegraph’s article and noted: “Protection of the green belt is already enshrined in Sadiq’s 2021 London Plan, which is a plan for many years ahead and will remain in force after the election.”

A strengthening alignment between the national Labour Party and one of the party’s most high-profile politicians on the Green Belt can only be beneficial to the industry in terms of the re-classification to Grey Belt.

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