Protect our Green Belt and Provide the Affordable Homes we Need

Protect our Green Belt and Countryside

Green Belt prevents housing sprawl: vital to sustain the balance between Surrey’s settlements and our fantastic countryside. But Green Belt planning permissions have doubled since the coalition government’s new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF, which three developers drafted) was adopted in 2012. Why? Because the government’s new planning framework has made it easier to do so – and has set higher housing targets based on the ‘housing need’.

Locally, rather than increase affordable home provision and protect our Green Belt the way this new planning framework is structured has led our Local Council to plan to build up to 1400 homes on the Green Belt, East of Redhill and/or South West of Reigate, for the first time.

Address the Crisis in Affordable Housing

House prices have sky-rocketed, especially in London and the South East. These high prices make it harder for local people in the Reigate area to afford to rent, let alone buy a new home.

This is the result of a combination of coalition housing policies that have recreated the economics of ‘boom and bust’, and of inequality, in the form of another housing bubble – the very thing that underpinned the last financial crisis.

As well as loosening controls on developers to make building on greenfield and Green Belt sites, the government has stopped providing truly affordable homes for those who need them, which has helped drive up housing prices for everyone. These policies included:

  • drastically reduced funding to Raven and others to build affordable homes (an 84% cut locally) so less is being built; 
  • the government made new affordable housing 60% more expensive, so this less affordable new social housing is now harder to get, and now competes directly with the buy-to-let market; and
  • a get-out clause which allows developers to avoid providing the affordable homes we need, so many new homes are instead snapped up for private rent.

This is reflected in zero affordable homes being provided by developers in the Liquid and Envy site and station redevelopment in Redhill, as neither exceed the profit threshold that comes before a developer is required to provide any affordable housing at all.

The result is less affordable homes and above inflation rises in both house prices and private rents locally. With house prices averaging eleven times incomes, many people are priced out of home ownership altogether. But even worse it has led to much higher homelessness in Reigate (an average of 50 households in emergency and B&B accommodation now) and made food banks part of a ‘new normal’ – needed to address hand-to-mouth levels of poverty in Redhill, Merstham, Preston and now Banstead.

A Better Plan Needed

The Conservative’s plans are to spend billions to extend the Right-to-Buy initiative which would reduce the amount of affordable housing, so make things worse. Right-to-Buy has seen less than half of the homes sold replaced with new affordable homes since 2012. Less affordable housing, means prices remain high – not only leaving much new housing in the hands of overseas investors but keeping the ‘market need’ pressure to build on London’s Green Belt.

The Green alternative is to provide the affordable homes we need locally, address the so-called Generation Rent and strengthen planning to protect the Green Belt again. But ultimately, unless we rebalance the economy of the whole country, the South-East’s Green Belt will likely be overtaken by unsustainable urban growth in the next 25 years. Instead, housing must be part of an economic plan that creates a sustainable economy across the UK not just rising inequality and house prices here. We have a growing imbalance between higher unemployment and cheaper homes up North and a crisis of affordability here. So, instead of further stoking London’s economy and housing market as highlighted by the CPRE, with airport expansion and continuing tax avoidance in the city of London, we need to create jobs across Britain where unemployment persists and empty homes and brownfield sites abound.

We CAN do this. We can provide the truly affordable housing we need locally and reinstate strong protection of our countryside and Green Belt, and plan a UK economy that works for all.