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My weekly Telegraph column has made me realise how much one issue dominates in the UK


When I write about it 500,000 people read the column, rather than the normal 50,000. What’s more, when I write about other subjects, I see how often this problem is the root cause of other problems.

It is housing – or rather the lack of housing – and the failure of any government to tackle this problem.

The UK’s population is growing – and far faster than was predicted 20 years ago. This growth is concentrated in London and the South East and reflects the success of these regions.

However, house building has not kept pace with population growth. As a result huge numbers of people can no longer afford to buy homes or, increasingly, even rent them.

We need to build hundreds of thousands of extra homes a year for a decade, starting now, if we are to solve this problem. The alternative is a generation living with their parents, putting off having families and unable enjoy the life many of take for granted.

However, this cannot be a charter to pave over the greenbelt. Building on 5% of UK sounds fine until you realise that this 5% would be something like 25% of the densely populated South East where green space is needed most.

We need to build dense and build high. We need to utilise brownfield sites and build over car parks and railway lines in cuttings. We need to demolish poor-quality, low density housing built in the 70s and 80s and replace it with dense, architect-designed, mixed-use developments.

If we wanted to we could rejuvenate our town centres, cut the cost of housing and renting, and stimulate our economy in one fell swoop. All we need is the political will.

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Written by Alex Proud | Posted on 28th January 2015

Gallerist and club owner Alex Proud is the founder of Proud Galleries and Proud Camden and appears on Channel 4's Four Rooms. He writes a regular column for Telegraph Men

Website: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/journalists/alex-proud/

  • Greygoose

    Dismissing out of hand any building on the Greenbelt is a major mistake and sets your campaign on course for failure at the outset. Greenbelt land has increased 121% since 1979, yet 1% of greenbelt land, land that is in intensive agricultural use and with low environmental & asthetic value, and within a 10min walk of a train station, would provide enough land to build hundreds of thousands of (maybe 1m) homes.
    All your proposals are good but without enough land the resulting houses would be too expensive and too small. Those growing up now have a right to decent housing of decent size. Brownfield sites are expensive to build on and often in unattractive locations, meaning that the resulting housing is more likely to be cramped and poorly built in order for builders to turn a profit. Conversely, when ‘brownfield’ sites (eg ex-MOD land) are attractive, they are far more valuable to local urban communities than far away Greenbelt land which only benefits the rich in the stockbroker belt, and building on them is a bigger loss.
    As someone backing home building in this country I hope you would understand the importance of dispelling myths about the Greenbelt and its leading role our current crisis, rather than putting such a task in the ‘too hard’ box.

  • colin wiles

    Sorry Alex, but this analysis is illiterate nonsense and I am surprised Homes for Britain are prepared to publish it in their name.

    Using phrases like “Building over 5% of the UK” and “pave over the green belt” is just scaremongering. Every respectable analyst has shown that we only need to take up a tiny percentage of England’s land mass to build the homes we need. Just 1% of England’s land area would provide 4 million homes and the “built upon” footprint would increase from 10% to 10.7%. That’s over 30 years’ supply at present build rates, probably 70 years if you take into account the fact that many new homes wold be built on brownfield land. Analysts have also shown that there is simply not enough brownfield land to meet future needs. Analysts have also shown that building on just a tiny fraction of the green belt could produce millions of homes.

  • What’s needed is pragmatic and straightforward, more homes built on existing space, making joined up sense of the spaces around, enhancing what we’ve already got, which more or less is what is being proposed here. It’s bleeding obvious. Political will is the only thing that isn’t evident.