On 24 September 2012 Hogan Lovells hosted the Second Annual Welbeck Strategic Land Debate. Chaired by Property Week’s Editor-in-Chief, Giles Barrie, Chris Tinker of Crest Nicholson and Liz Peace of the BPF argued for the motion “We believe that the Government should be encouraging development both on green fields and in cities” whilst Richard Blakeway, Deputy Mayor for Housing, Land and Property and Jonathon Porritt, Co-Founder of Forum for the Future spoke against it.
It was an excellent and engaging debate. The key issues raised were:
- whether cities or the countryside are where people want to live;
- whether building homes just on urban brownfield sites will supply enough homes to meet the UK’s annual requirements, and whether it will do so at prices that people can afford to pay for them; and
- whether houses in the countryside will contribute sufficiently to the housing demand for new workers, in London in particular, to fuel economic growth.
The motion didn’t mention the green belt, but the speakers agreed that this was the true issue and all agreed on the need for sustainable urban and rural housing developments. There was no dispute that any development of green field sites would have to be sympathetic to the environment, and that housing is still needed in the cities and not just in the countryside.
Perhaps unsurprisingly for an audience of property professionals, the vote was overwhelmingly in favour of both urban and green field development, but it was telling that 25% disagreed with the motion, showing the strength of the arguments both ways.
If only Eric Pickles had been there to hear it all! The detail of the debate will be published in Property Week, so perhaps he will get the chance to catch up on what he missed.