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Letter: Building in the Green Belt Is Just a Cheap Option for Developers

Published on: 8 Oct, 2018
Updated on: 8 Oct, 2018

From David Roberts

In response to: There Has Been No Collapse in Housing Need

Everyone is impressed by the way Cambridge has developed as an international centre, and with the synergies that have created such a strong academic/business cluster. But Mr Lainton’s experience there has perhaps misled him into a false analogy with Guildford, a London commuter town with a much less important university, and to think that the Cambridge Ahead formula can be applied here.

One huge difference is space. As a frequent visitor to Cambridge, I am always struck by how easily big, new housing developments are being fitted into the flat prairies surrounding the city, without much impact on infrastructure except traffic. The city-centre gridlock there is partly a deliberate policy anyway, to deflect drivers from the large “heritage” area of old colleges. Surrey’s congested downland could hardly be a different context.

Another fundamental difference is that Cambridge is not the victim of eternal one-party rule like Guildford, China and North Korea. Developments there are therefore easier to challenge and must generally pass higher quality tests. Until Guildford’s Tory-voting residents wise up and vote for other candidates, they will continue to elect a herd of sheep to the council.

The author’s biggest delusion, however, is that all would be well but for a “few nimbys” in the green belt. This hoary old insult is too often trotted out as an argument of last resort – although being called “Trumpian” as well may be a first!

So please let me spell out once again a basic fact that never, ever seems to get through to whatever you call the anti-nimby brigade (Can anyone think of an equally insulting term for them?) Namely: building in the green belt is a cheap and soft option for developers, encouraging land-banking and preventing the town-centre regeneration towns like Guildford (but not Cambridge) so desperately need. Conversely, protecting green fields incentivises it.

Proof? The exciting regeneration and repopulation of central London in the last fifty years as a result of the green belt, which put a stop to the unregulated pre-war ribbon development of “Metroland” that resulted in such horrors as Croydon, Slough and Woking. Is this what we want Guildford to be like?

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Responses to Letter: Building in the Green Belt Is Just a Cheap Option for Developers

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    October 9, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    This is so self-evident, that it is extraordinary that the council leadership cannot see it.

    Or do they, but choose it ignore it?

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