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How to protect our precious green belt

May 16, 2018 11:51 AM
By Dr Merilyn Canet

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What is being done to preserve the Green Belt?

Councillor Merilyn Canet

The Green Belt, introduced between 1948 and 1955 around the largest urban areas, is supposed to:
- check urban sprawl and stop towns merging into one another
- help safeguard the countryside from encroachment
- encourage re-use of derelict urban land (Brownfield sites)

Liberal Democrats recognise the need to balance protecting the Green Belt with urgent need to build new homes for our children and increasing numbers of older people.

The Conservative Government wants Sevenoaks District Council to allocate land for 700 new homes a year for the next 20 years. It threatens to allow Green Belt building if councillors fail. But we could use a more intelligent approach.

We need the right homes in the right place at the right price for people - now and in the future. Co-housing projects for older residents would help. More suitable developments for people who own or privately rent - the vast majority here - would release housing for families. Better planning regulations could enable some owners to enjoy 3 generational living.

Rockdale Housing Association in Sevenoaks creates new homes for older citizens, both leasehold and rented, at high density, a real community. This should be replicated, for social, health and economic benefits, elsewhere.

All options should be tried before we use Green Belt Land. A large number of homes have been empty for over 6 months; sites with planning permission have been left empty for a decade. Councils should be able to penalise "excessive land - banking" if developers fail to build after 3 years.

This will not meet Government targets so we may need to accept that 'brownfield' areas of the Green Belt could be released to help local families. But if we do this the infrastructure needed - roads, schools, medical facilities - must be built with the new housing, not after the need becomes desperate.

Councillor Merilyn Canet