UKIP and Green Party Policies on Greenbelt Housebuilding
In my post of 14th November, I said I would be reviewing the policies of the major UK parties in relation to housebuilding on greenbelt land. I am starting with the Green Party and UKIP, as they largely agree on this issue. In short, they do not want any houses to be built on the greenbelt, though as will be seen below the Green Party’s position is more nuanced than that of UKIP.
UKIP housing spokesman Andrew Charalambous said at the UKIP Party Conference in September 2014 that “UKIP will never concede an inch of the British countryside to residential development”. They are not totally opposed to housebuilding as such. According to a report in Property Industry Eye, UKIP believes that up to 2.5 million homes could be built on brownfield land, and that 700,000 empty properties could be brought back into use as affordable housing. But they are certainly opposed to housebuilding on greenbelt land.
A policy document issued after the Conference and available on the party’s website states under “Housing and Planning” (http://www.ukip.org/policies_for_people):
– UKIP will protect the Green Belt
– Planning rules in the NPPF will be changed to make it easier to build on brownfield sites instead of greenfield sites. Central government is to list the nationally available brownfield sites for development and issue low-interest bonds to enable decontamination.
– Houses on brownfield sites will be exempt from Stamp Duty on first sale and VAT relaxed for redevelopment of brownfield sites.
– Planning permission for large-scale developments can be overturned by a referendum triggered by the signatures of 5% of the District or Borough electors collected within three months.
There is certainly no ambiguity about the issue as far as UKIP is concerned. Housing building on greenbelt land is to be absolutely prohibited.
The Green Party
The Green Party’s position on greenbelt building is more nuanced than that of UKIP.
The party has adopted a Housing Policy which is available on its website (http://greenparty.org.uk/values/). It accepts that housing is a “basic human need”, indeed a “universal human right”. One of the party’s “Aims” is stated to be “To ensure everyone is provided with housing appropriate to their needs”. Another Aim, however, is “To minimise the impact of housing on the environment”. The Housing Policy goes on to state that all new housebuilding should be subject to “open democratic planning approval” and that “for…all proposed developments on green field sites, this will require independent comprehensive environmental impact assessments.” There is also a reference to the party’s proposals on “local referenda, citizens’ initiatives and the reform of local government”, which the Policy states will make the planning process “more democratic and accessible”.
The party’s Housing Policy does not refer to greenbelt land as such, including it instead within the more general “green field sites”. However, the emphasis on obtaining “democratic” approval for developments through referenda and so on would be bound in practice to rule out housebuilding on greenbelt land. The interests of those who would benefit from new building, who are most unlikely to be local voters, would not be represented in such a process, which would overwhelmingly favour existing home owners.
Interestingly, the Cambridge Green Party has issued a “Housing Manifesto” (available at: http://cambridge.greenparty.org.uk/policies/housing-manifesto.html), which at least mentions the possibility that greenbelt land might be used for new housing in some circumstances. It states:
Cambridge Green Party is prepared to accept that there may be limited cases where the green belt could be reviewed given the seriousness of the danger of social inequity within the city.
We would not wish to see an overall reduction in the amount of green belt land surrounding the city, but believe there may well be locations more suited than present green belt land for protection or for development.”
The position of the Cambridge Green Party is significant, as Cambridge is surrounded by a substantial greenbelt and suffers from a severe shortage of affordable housing. The fact that the local Green Party is at least prepared to consider housebuilding on greenbelt land suggests the national Party might be more flexible in practice than its own Housing Policy would suggest.
The London Green Party, by contrast, says nothing in its Housing Policy (also available on its website: http://london.greenparty.org.uk/elections/elections/2012-london-policies/housing.html) about greenbelt building. It focuses instead on “stabilising” rents and “supporting local communities to take control of their future”, thus reflecting the national Party’s emphasis on local democratic control of housebuilding.
There is of course no chance that either UKIP of the Green Party will form the next UK government after May 2015. However, given the extreme uncertainty over the outcome of the next election, it is at least possible that a Labour or Tory led minority administration (or coalition) may seek the support of UKIP or the Green Party, or both. These parties’ policies on greenbelt building could therefore have a practical impact on the policies that are actually implemented by the next government.