Vague ramblings

Ribbon development returns?

Posted in Musing by Ian Cundell on 31 August, 2004

Just up the road is a plot of land that once-upon-a-time was the corner of a farmers field. It is in the greenbelt, but that has not stopped an outfit called Property Spy from selling house-sized plots at £80,000 a time. Without planning permission and – theoretically at least – without the prospect of planning permission.

The UK government’s Barker Review into housing provision provides the signal that Property Spy might be onto something. It does so by recommending the “introduction of flexibility at the local level through the allocation of additional land in Local Development Frameworks, with the release of this additional land triggered by market signals”.

That’s what you get when you ask an economist to do a geographer’s job. What Barker is recommending is the return of ribbon development (where do you think these ‘market signals’ will point?) and the throwing away of 50 years of holding the line against urban sprawl.

Greenbelt policy has many problems, but it is hard to deny that it has done an exceptionally good job of protecting the countryside. And in much of the country working class people[*] have benefitted, because new and expanded towns had protected countryside within easy reach.

Hmmm. Let the greenbelt fail next to an edge of town former council estate, or let it fail near a nice cosy village with a well-organised resident’s association? Tricky.

[*]I apologise. We’re not allowed to call them working class any more, are we? They are ‘key workers’.

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