The Green Belt serves multiple important functions for our city, mitigating the impacts of climate change, providing space for food growing, preventing flooding, providing important habitats for wildlife and allowing space for recreation and relaxation for Londoners. I am committed to preserving and enhancing it.
My London Plan clearly states that the Green Belt should be protected from inappropriate development. However, the National Planning Policy Framework does allow development on the Green Belt if very special circumstances can be demonstrated. The same applies to boroughs proposing to remove Green Belt designations in their local plans. The London Plan is clear that Green Belt boundaries should be changed only in exceptional circumstances. London’s Green Belt prevents urban sprawl, driving the reuse and intensification of previously developed land. Prioritising development of brownfield land is a key part of the approach the London Plan takes to meeting London’s substantial housing need. This ensures there is sufficient space for other essential land uses without encroaching on the Green Belt or other designated open spaces, including Metropolitan Open Land.
As well as setting out a strong policy position on protecting the Green Belt, we are also taking a robust approach to implementation, refusing development proposals that would cause harm and not supporting any inappropriate attempts to de-designate the Green Belt. For example, in 2018 GLA officers successfully defended my direction to refuse planning permission for a rail freight facility in the Green Belt, saving 54 hectares of open land from development.
I also want to make sure the Green Belt is enhanced for the benefit of Londoners. We have already supported the creation of two new woodlands in the Green Belt, creating 84 hectares of publicly accessible green space and contributing to the planting of 90,000 trees this year alone. We will be making more funding available this summer through my Green New Deal Fund to help address the climate and ecological emergencies. Rewilding and other landscape improvement projects that can provide improved, more inclusive access to green space will be eligible for funding. This will include projects on sites in the Green Belt that are in areas of high climate risk.
As you know, I was not happy with the draft Local Plan and I objected in relation to the draft plan having plans to remove the designation. They will respond to the points raised in the consultation and come forward with their latest plan. We will have to wait and look at that and respond. Then it goes to the Inspector. Based on what I have said, I would be surprised if they continue with plans to de-designate; I did continue to express my unhappiness with that.
I really do not want to get into Labour/Conservative. This is about something I feel strongly about for our city. The key thing is for me to make my views clear without fear or favour. My London Plan is quite clear. My Environment Strategy is quite clear. This is an area that we agree upon in relation to the importance of the Green Belt.
If it is the case that any council - and we are talking about Enfield now - has plans to de-designate the Green Belt for reasons that I do not agree with, I will not be scared to object. I would hope the Inspector would look at the London Plan and look at our policies and side with our objections, but you will be aware that an inspector can decide to go ahead with the council or the London Plan. This is a good example of me not caring whether the council is Labour or Conservative.
On a case-by-case basis. Can I reassure you, I will say this to leaders of councils who may be from my party. This is a good example of without fear or favour. These are really important policies. These are the lungs of our city. You would have to have, according to my policies, an exceptional reason to de-designate.