Density, villages and the Green Belt: time to loosen the belt a hole?

Upwards or outwards?

1. Assuming that we shall shortly run out of brownfield land, we must accommodate more development by building either upwards or outwards. In towns and cities it has to be upwards. In the country, we need a re-think. It is a simple proposition. Either we build upwards in and around villages, or we take more agricultural land - whether or not it is part of a green belt. I suggest we do both - in moderation.

2. I suggest that the green belt concept is past its sell-by date. We know of parts of the Green Belts which are neither green nor pleasant, nor even accessible to us. Notice how tightly the green belt is drawn around towns and villages. There are many instances of sites which are perfect for suitable development - except that they are the wrong side of the green belt line. There is no way I would accept the proposition that what some drawer of lines 60 years ago took account of every boundary wiggle and smallest paddock with a view that what he did then would still be relevant 60 years later. It was a broad brush stroke exercise. We are not at risk of desecrating the countryside by having a look at it again now.

3. There are places too, where today, the only way we can build is upwards. If we want to preserve the amenity and space in our towns and villages, there are situations where we would be far better off building at lower densities than 30 units per hectare. We would not miss a hectare or two, when balanced against the benefit of a park or place for recreation. So the green belts should be made more flexible, or maybe even re-assessed, nation wide.

4. As for building upwards, well, why not? If we want to keep house prices as low as possible, we must avoid lifts and unfriendly voids. But surely we could build more houses and flats to three storeys - even in small villages. I have a mental image of a “block of flats” as a brick-shaped monstrosity. We could allow our architects to be more ambitious. In a conservation area, we could build with different roof lines even in the same one acre site. Outside the conservation areas, we should simply vary construction size and style to a greater extent. This happen now in many urban areas. The problem is that building regulations stifle new ideas so that volume builders fall back on standard house styles. Do you have better ideas?

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