Green Belt Project Official Launch Blog

LSE Green Belt project | Official launch blog entry

Last Thursday saw the official launch of the 21st Century Metropolitan Green Belt project. A number of opinion formers were present - some in favour of the conservation of the Belt, others questioning its utility. There was general agreement that now is an important time to debate the Metropolitan Green Belt (MGB).

The meeting was divided into three presentations followed by discussions. First was Paul Cheshire (LSE) who noted that 65% of the Greater London area is green; so why do we always imagine that London is made of concrete? He called for a strategic review of the MGB. This review should pay attention to the price signals that indicate economic inefficiencies of the MGB. He also pointed out unintended consequences of the MGB including “exclusionary zoning” and underuse of already-built infrastructure.

Transportation and social infrastructure were at the core of Barney Stringer’s presentation (QUOD). He highlighted the importance of having the right combination of infrastructure to make a place work properly. Focused on moving the debate forward, Stringer asked the questions: “Can MGB release help make better use of infrastructure” and “What can new housing do for infrastructure?” suggesting that much-needed infrastructure such as the High Speed Two could, in part, be financed by new development.

Our third presenter, Ian Gordon (LSE), drew on a draft report from the Outer London Commission to state five elements we need for substantial progress:

  1. A shared understanding of the problem;
  2. A sense of equity in engagement with the issue;
  3. A model of reform offering a stable long term path of change;
  4. Deals for accepting substantial increase complementary infrastructure;
  5. Some leadership with credible power to commit.

The discussion moved beyond the typical two-sided debate pro and against Metropolitan Green Belt, raising many questions that are yet to be addressed. As some focused on technical issues such as the efficiency of density, others explained the importance of keeping democracy at the centre of the debate. John Lett (GLA) reminded us of the complexity of increasing housing delivery. Many existing permissions to build in London are not developed. Given this, it does not follow that the release of more land would necessarily increase housing supply in the short term. He also highlighted the political realities of MGB review. On a positive note, we considered some examples of how cities can relate to the countryside in a different way to London - including Copenhagen’s ‘finger plan’ style of development.

For more information follow the links below and elsewhere on our site:

On Paul Cheshire’s price signals:
Cheshire, P. (2014) “Turning Houses into Gold: the Failure of British Planning”, CentrePiece, Spring 2014, 5pp.

On Barney Stringer’s infrastructure description:

“Green Belt – what is it exactly?”, audio from February 2015.

On Ian Gordon’s 5 elements of progress:

OLC (2015) “Draft 5th Report – towards more effective arrangements for coordinating strategic policy and infrastructure investment across the Wider South East”.


You may also download this blog entry in pdf form here.



Project launch event presentation: The Green Belt: The price we pay, Paul Cheschire

Paul Cheschire presented at our official project launch. He discussed perceived myths on the purposes of a green belt and offered alternative interpretations of the Green Belt as a possible to site to build new houses to help solve the housing crisis.

Click here to download the presentation.


Project launch event presentation: Securing Regional Buy-in for Reform, Ian Gordon

Ian Gordon presented at our official project launch. He discussed five credible requirements for substantial progress and the Outer London Commission report which suggests the possibility of a Mayoral led strategic review of GB inside of London. 

Click here to download the presentation.