47% agree

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - Robert Colvile is Di­rec­tor of the Cen­tre for Pol­icy Stud­ies

loos­ened around rail­way sta­tions and other in­fra­struc­ture – more peo­ple dis­agreed than agreed.

The green belt – like the NHS – has been the sub­ject of an ex­traor­di­nar­ily in­tense pro­pa­ganda ef­fort. Per­haps it’s be­cause the words them­selves sound so nice. The Cam­paign to Pro­tect Ru­ral Eng­land (CPRE) pub­lishes an an­nual re­port which fea­tures beau­ti­ful fields be­ing scis­sored out of the land­scape, fam­i­lies en­joy­ing pic­nics amid the wild­flow­ers and dire warn­ings about the “con­cret­ing over” that is al­ready un­der way.

In fact, the CPRE’s own fig­ures show that, at cur­rent rates of de­vel­op­ment, con­cret­ing over the green belt would take 5,000 years. We now have a bizarre sit­u­a­tion where Greater Lon­don is sur­rounded by an area three times larger upon which vir­tu­ally noth­ing can be built – de­spite much of it, as the cam­paign­ing Labour MP Siob­hain McDon­agh has shown, be­ing aw­ful brown­field. Why not pro­tect the most beau­ti­ful coun­try­side, within the green belt and be­yond, and re­lease the black spots for much-needed hous­ing?

Yet de­spite the vot­ers’ at­tach­ment to the green belt, our polling does show the pub­lic are fi­nally start­ing to realise the scale of the hous­ing cri­sis, and re­vise their views ac­cord­ingly. Even when they op­pose hous­ing, they do not do so blindly. A ma­jor­ity would be more likely to sup­port it if there were greater com­mu­nity ben­e­fits, or if it were higher qual­ity – pre­cisely in line with the Govern­ment’s agenda.

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