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.