Balancing Green Belt Development and Financial Realities

19 Dec 23

Michael Gove yesterday announced a 6.5% funding increase for local councils. However, the Local Government Association warns that one in five councils might face bankruptcy by 2024. The financial challenges, exacerbated by rising costs and wages, are putting pressure on social care and education.

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 Sitting in an airport, bound for a festive family reunion with the in-laws, my thoughts wander to the release of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and its impact on Green Belt development. 

Recently, a defensive stance taken by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) in response to a critique by The Times caught my attention. The article, which can be read here, underscores the tension surrounding Green Belt policies. 

Michael Gove yesterday announced a 6.5% funding increase for local councils. However, the Local Government Association warns that one in five councils might face bankruptcy by 2024. The financial challenges, exacerbated by rising costs and wages, are putting pressure on social care and education. 

At the same time, Gove announced some tough measures aimed at unlocking delivery, with seven authorities already subject to Local Plan intervention and an unveiled threat to strip local authorities of their planning responsibilities if they ‘drag their feet’ on housing plans. 

In the midst of the fiscal challenges, some councils are eyeing the Green Belt as a potential solution. Thoughtful development here could ease housing pressures and fund critical infrastructure like new schools and health facilities, yet Gove has announced an incentivisation of urban regeneration in general preference to Green Belt developments. 

Concurrently, there’s a shift in public perception. While policies around Green Belt development are tightening, there’s a growing understanding of its potential benefits. This is crucial as local authorities, not all of which rely on government aid, seek innovative, private sector-backed solutions for sustainable growth. 

As 2023 draws to a close, it’s evident that the traditional approach of expecting unchanged services with dwindling funds is unsustainable. Local areas must make strategic choices that best serve their communities. Amidst these challenges and policy evolutions, the general public’s receptiveness to Green Belt development is increasing, suggesting a changing landscape of urban planning and community development. 

Wishing you all a brilliant winter break. We’ll be back with our usual weekly email on Wednesday, 10 January 2024.

James Bompas Director of Business Development,Planning