Mayoral candidates from the four parties currently represented at City Hall have rejected calls to consider building on the Green Belt.
A new report published today by the Centre for London is urging Boris Johnson’s successor to “tackle conventional thinking” by allowing “carefully planned development” on the Green Belt in a bid to meet the growing demand for housing.
The politically independent think tank says the next mayor should take a leading role in providing “low income housing” by pooling developer contributions and using them build in less expensive areas and wants them to support higher density development around stations.
Today’s report also urges mayoral support for city wide road pricing, the promotion of car sharing and “better public spaces” for walking and cycling in a bid to reduce congestion and air pollution.
Ben Rogers, Director at Centre for London said: “London does not just face a housing crisis. It faces a growth crisis. The new mayor will have to take some bold decisions on transport, affordable housing and new development.
“But Londoners increasingly recognise that things will have to change if the city is going work for them. The trick will be in being strategic, building alliances and taking Londoners with him or her.”
Labour candidate Sadiq Khan said the think tank “is right” to urge the new mayor to tackle conventional thinking and said he was “committed to investing in our public transport system and to establishing Homes for Londoners which will build the genuinely affordable homes Londoners need.”
”But I disagree strongly with reviewing the Green Belt – it’s as important today as it was when it was established and we should protect it.
“Nor do I have any plans to introduce city-wide road pricing . Instead, I’ll tackle filthy air by freezing fares to get more people using public transport, invest in cycling and walking and pedestrianise Oxford Street.
“I’ve also said I want to buy only electric or hydrogen buses from 2020, and look at introducing the ULEZ before 2020 and widen the area it covers.”
A spokesperson for Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith said he would “reject any attempts to review London’s Green Belt,” adding: “our greens spaces are precious and there is enough brownfield land within London to deliver the housing we need. We just need to unlock it.”
“That means having a Mayor who can work with the government to release public land. And it means protecting vital investment in London’s transport network to open up new brownfield sites for development.
“That’s why Sadiq Khan’s £1.9bn black hole in the transport budget is not just a huge risk and experiment for London’s transport network, but also an experiment with housing and the future of London’s green spaces.”
Liberal Democrat mayoral hopeful Caroline Pidgeon commented: “These are interesting ideas from the Centre for London, although I totally disagree with them about the need to build on the Green Belt.
“By imaginative use of existing brownfield sites and other unused land that already exist in the capital, we can easily build the 50,000 new homes a year London needs.
She added: ”I would also take issue with their call for city wide road pricing. Again I have plans to use imaginative, targeted solutions to tackling congestion, improving air quality and protecting cyclists which together with some of my other policies I believe offers some of the radical solutions the Centre for London are seeking.”
Green candidate Sian Berry, who has previously ruled out building on the Green Belt, has already committed herself to charging drivers more in order to reduce car use and clean up London’s air.
A spokesperson said: “She has promised to appoint a City Hall tsar to oversee the continued development of London’s digital industries, supporting the development of ultra-fast broadband, protecting premises and helping start-ups and smaller firms gain access to promotion abroad.
“And on housing, she has promised to set up a not-for-profit housing company to help Londoners take the lead on building affordable homes and regenerating our estates.
“This will use City Hall money and public land to support residents in planning their own regeneration projects and create a more diverse, public, private and co-operative sector for new homes on smaller sites.”