Free-market think-tank calls for Budget to relax green belt

A call for the chancellor to use this week's Budget to announce the release of 'huge tranches' of green belt land for housebuilding features in today's newspaper round-up.

Fixing the broken housing market "requires a bold move to unblock an absurd and tangled planning system", writes Mark Littlewood, director-general of free-market think-tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, in The Times (subscription required). "Housing needs to be built in areas where people actually want to live and that requires a major relaxation of restrictions on building on greenfield sites," according to Littlewood. He says that "measurable proportion" of the planning gain arising from releasing "huge tranches" of green belt land "could be used to generate government receipts, to ease financial pressure on council budgets or to offer financial compensation to local residents". Littlewood concludes: "A policy to unleash a huge private building programme, to bring down the exorbitant cost of housing and to generate billions in revenue is surely too good for Philip Hammond to ignore."

The Financial Times (subscription required) writes that altering the rules so that housing associations are treated as private companies and can borrow more freely is a "timid reform compared with the one that many academics, think tanks and even former ministers have advocated: legislating to change planning rules so that the cost of land comes down". However, the newspaper says that chancellor Philip Hammond "appears unmoved. His comments so far suggest the Budget will offer more of the same: relying on benefits, mortgage subsidies, tweaks to planning rules and increased private sector construction to improve the affordability of houses to buy. Like previous attempts, it looks doomed to fail".

Built environment conservation adviser Historic England has launched a campaign to save the country’s historic textile mills "after discovering that nearly half of Greater Manchester’s once bustling factories have been demolished", the Guardian reports. According to the newspaper, a University of Salford survey has found that about 45 per cent of the regions 971 mills have disappeared since the 1980s. "Historic England condemned the destruction of the buildings and called for the surviving mills to be turned into housing, offices or public amenities," the newspaper says.

The son of the British inventor Sir James Dyson has pulled proposals to build a helipad on his 17th century estate after complaints it would affect local church services, the Daily Telegraph reports. Jake Dyson had hoped to build the helipad as part of plans to renovate his Cotswolds estate, according to the newspaper. But it adds: "The proposals were withdrawn after opposition from the parish council and Historic England, which expressed concern over the ‘potential noise impact’ upon a ‘peaceful setting’".

Work has begun on a £1.5 billion scheme to reclaim land from the sea around Monaco so that "more luxury apartments can be built for the thousands more millionaires expected to move to the principality in the coming 10 years", the Guardian reports. The newspaper says that the sovereign city state has "run out of space for those seeking the ‘fiscal advantages’ the tax haven offers". It adds: "To attract the world’s wealthy, Prince Albert II, the reigning monarch, has approved the ‘offshore urban extension project’, which will add six hectares to Monaco’s 202 hectares".

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