Sadiq Khan sticks to Green Belt line and awaits Labour ‘grey belt’ policy detail

Sadiq Khan sticks to Green Belt line and awaits Labour ‘grey belt’ policy detail

Sadiq Khan has reaffirmed his commitment to preventing development on Green Belt land within Greater London while acknowledging he would need to “work to understand” what any loosening of related planning restrictions by a future Labour national government would mean for the capital.

Speaking at Mayor’s Question Time on Thursday, the first such event since his re-election on 2 May, the Mayor told newly-elected Conservative London Assembly member Alessandro Georgiou that “London’s Green Belt is as important today as it has always been” and that the policies for protecting it in his London Plan, City Hall’s master blueprint for the capital’s development, continue to reflect his view of it.

“I remain committed to a ‘brownfield first’ approach,” Khan said, adding that “we shouldn’t let the debate on Green Belt distract us from the core task of delivering the housing Londoners need”. He said the city has “a pipeline of residential permissions equivalent to seven years’ supply” but adverse economic conditions meant the houses weren’t being built. Measures to change this included “infrastructure investment and greater flexibility for the affordable homes programme”.

Suggestions that Khan might be preparing to take a more flexible approach to Green Belt restrictions followed the absence from his 2024 manifesto of a restatement of his determination to protect it and Labour leader Keir Starmer speaking publicly about requiring councils across the country to include so-called “grey belt” land – designated Green Belt but deemed of poor quality and perhaps already built on – along with brownfield among sites considered suitable for new housing.

Referring to this as “downgraded” support for the Green Belt by Labour, Alessandro said Labour-run councils were already being “soft” on Green Belt protection, including Enfield’s, of which he is leader of the opposition Tory group of councillors.

Enfield’s long-gestating new Local Plan, which has sharply divided political opinion in the borough, proposes more than 9,000 new homes on Green Belt land. Khan has previously called the plans “unjustified” and “premature”. Asked by Alessandro to “confirm that you will protect the Green Belt during your term”, Khan assured him City Hall’s response to all boroughs’ Local Plans would be in line with existing London Plan Green Belt policies.

Elaborating, Khan recognised that in “exceptional circumstances” particular pieces of Green Belt line can be de-designated and noted that there have long been examples of particular locations that might be termed “grey belt”. Labour has mentioned a disused petrol station in Tottenham as an example. “But it’s a slippery slope,” Khan said, underlining his view that “we’ve got to protect” Green Belt land and that there are “sufficient brownfield sites for us to build homes for the foreseeable future”.

On Labour’s “grey belt” rule proposal, he said: “I understand the intention of a potential Labour government is to look at the grey belt – brownfield sites in the Green Belt. I haven’t seen the detail of what this approach would involve and would work to understand what this would mean for London if and when that happens.”

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