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I agree with both Joseph and Mike. Releasing green belt is the easy option, and will destroy some of the source of our air quality. If the area used to be farmland then to build on it locks out forever the chance of locally grown food, should we ever need to require that in the future…it’s like the current interest in re-opening some railway lines shut under Beeching; there are some which now would make very valuable commuter links but cannot be reopened because they have been built across since the 1970’s.
I find the Center For Cities material very illuminating and useful regarding the complexities of urban problems, but I am concerned at the APPARENT (I haven’t read everything on the CFC website…) lack of any attention to food security for cities, protection of nearby farmland to ensure this, and an appreciation of the health giving qualities of open space. The emphasis seems to be purely on business, infrastructure, and economic growth. Nothing wrong with these three things in themselves, but they must not be pursued to the extent that they destroy the very eco structure that sustains us as well as our cities. I am a city dweller and very much value urban life, but it is so easy to become so immersed in urbanism and its needs (especially as defined by well funded high pressure developers) as to wipe out any sense of the wider need to protect the local environment. A final thought is that you are not going to get social housing on green belt – the developers just will not wear that. I live in Gtr Manchester where there is immense pressure to build on local green belt – from developers who have long ago bought up the land for a song; the mere re-zoning of that land for development will increase its value many times, even before a spade (or JCB) cuts into it. Then there is the additional gain from the actual construction project. The accommodation being discussed is often luxury flats and executive mansions, all way way above local people’s purchasing power. So we local people get shafted every which way – we lose our open space and get no social benefit from the process.
A major national project which would be very interesting would be for the UK to do what the Dutch did (back in the 1930’s ???) – create a Zuyder-Zee to expand the country’s land mass without destroying our countryside. You could build whatever you wanted on that, hopefully without upsetting anyone !
The only way to solve the issue of the massive housing crisis in London, is too build higher-density housing, in the predominantly low-density, housing types that make up the London Suburbia. Compared to other cities, London is extraordinarily low-rise. Which is why it also requires a revolution. Victorian terraces which make up a substantial portion of the inner-suburban areas of London (and predominantly residential) tend to be at most three-storeys.
It may sound revolutionary, but in order to have London be a truly sustainable city, despite the revolutionary nature, the city should build upwards, like it has been doing in the centre with all the new skyscrapers, although those are done for wealthy investors, and not for Londoners themselves. Expanding the city outwards, will mean more traffic and more pollution. It is foolish to think that London should become like Los Angeles. Much of the beautiful countryside of North Surrey or South Hertfordshire would be swallowed up, and would no longer be a part of the still relevant image of England as a ‘Green and Pleasant land’.
Well said Joseph. Councils in North ESSEX are promoting isolated ‘Garden Cities’ with high infrastructure costs in areas of low employment on greenfield sites which are only accessible by road. This has the following advantages for Councils; reduced local opposition to building, achieves ‘numbers’ of houses built for political reasons and sounds great. However the bigger picture is overloaded motorways, traffic and pollution with public money being spent on high infrastructure costs in the wrong areas.