Problems need solutions—and here is one. Within London’s green belt alone there are enough non-green sites surrounding train stations for more than 1 million new homes. Of course, truly green sites should be protected. My frustration is not with parks, hills or areas of environmental protection, but with the scrappy plots of land in towns and cities, surrounding railway stations, that no one in their right mind would see as attractive. I am talking about the car wash in Tottenham Hale, the scrubland in Ealing, the waste plant in Hillingdon and the concrete airfield in Wisley—sites that no one in their right mind would recognise as green belt if it were not for their designation.
Despite the strength of the green-belt brand, 80% of London’s green belt is inaccessible to the public as green space and does not even have an environmental status. Together, those scrappy plots of what I refer to as the grey belt remain wrongly designated, just because of the potential furore that de-designation might cause. It is time to burst the myth that all green belt is green, and use those non-green sites to provide the homes that we so desperately need. I read with interest this weekend the comments of the former Chancellor, Sajid Javid, about his plan for the upcoming Budget, and his belief that the green belt around major train stations should be reviewed. I wait with cautious optimism to see whether that will happen under the new Chancellor.
Of course, de-designation is one thing, but what the land is used for is another. If any green-belt land is released, it should be fundamental that it be used to help to resolve the housing crisis, providing the social and genuinely affordable homes for which our country is so desperate. To offer it instead as a land bank bonus for the biggest house builders would seem inexcusable to the thousands of my constituents waiting for a place to call home. I ask the Minister please to grasp the nettle of the sensible policy I have outlined—but to use the land for the people who need it most. Otherwise we will be back in this Chamber debating even worse statistics in the months and years ahead.