Green belt expected to be targeted by Sajid Javid's house-building plans

Catherine Neilan
Follow Catherine
Fears Grow For Green Belt Land As Planning Laws Set To Be Relaxed
Rural areas, where affordability is challenging, will be most affected by the plans (Source: Getty)

The Home Counties and rural parts of Britain are expected to be targeted in bold new plans forcing councils to build more houses.

Communities secretary Sajid Javid is expected to reveal plans to shake up the way housing market assessments are carried out, putting the focus on local house prices-to-income ratios instead of population forecasts, as is currently carried out.

Areas with a high ratio will then be compelled to address this by building more homes, opening up the possibility that so-called “Nimby councils” may have to build on the green belt.

Read more: The green belt is standing between young people and the homes they need

As well as the Home Counties, it is thought the plan will target Oxford and Cambridge, and cities including Brighton, Bournemouth and Bristol, where affordability is particularly bad.

Currently, the average house price costs 7.8 times the average salary, but in parts of the south east it is as high as 12 times.

Javid is expected to reveal the plan – which, according to The Sun has tacit support from Number 10 after six months of debate – this week, although a DCLG spokeswoman declined to comment.

MP for North East Somerset Jacob Rees-Mogg said the move would receive support, both from backbench MPs and councils, claiming Nimbyism was increasingly being rejected as people realised their own children could not afford homes.

However, he stressed the need for “collectively getting the balance right”.

“Inevitably there will be house-building in the country because that is where the land is, but ideally it would not happen in what you might call the ‘real’ green belt.”

“People in my position will be sensible about accepting that we are not going to be able to preserve every blade of grass, and therefore being Nimbyistic about it,” he said. “Pure obstructionism will not be popular with the public.”

Shadow City minister Jonathan Reynolds also backed Javid’s plans.

“Anything that gets more houses built has to be welcomed,” he said. “A conversation about the green belt is essential… but alongside that, the government also needs to invest in infrastructure, because otherwise it’s just another burden on [local councils].”

But not everyone welcomed them. Christchurch MP Chris Chope said it was "a mad policy" that would "go down like a lead balloon in my constituency".

He called for the government to review stamp duty, which "is directly the reponsibility of the government. Rather than try to contrive another scapegoat, they should be dealing with the things for which they are responsible."

He suggested there could be a backbench revolt against any proposals, saying there were "a number of colleagues who are exercised about the way in which the government is covertly relaxing the protection of the green belt."

But Duncan Stott of campaign group Priced Out told City A.M. the policy was exactly what was needed to address the UK’s housing shortage.

“The key thing is that house building needs to be highest where affordability is the worst – it is crucial that is fixed, and reform is badly needed.”

Related articles