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Abolish green belt policy, says think tank

An independent think tank has slammed the UK planning system and called for the national green belt policy to be abolished.

Policy Exchange says problems in the housing market such as low supply and high price inflation can be attributed to the planning system, the main objective of which is stunting urban growth.

It says the knock-on effects of this artificial land reduction include higher interest rates which punish mortgage borrowers.

Oliver Marc Hartwich, co-author of the Policy Exchange report, says: “Rapidly rising land and house prices have to be controlled through higher interest rates and the price of this policy is being paid by those struggling with mortgage payments, while those with money to invest benefit.”

Hartwich and his co-author Alan Evans recommend that the national green belt policy should be abolished and replaced by local communities making their own decisions about their environment.

The report’s recommendations echo economist Kate Barker who last year called for protected land around cities to be developed.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government says it is considering its response to the Barker Review and will publish it later this year.

This report comes as an MP is condemning the government over its plans to compensate losses to the green belt by designating land elsewhere.

Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, says: “The idea of compensatory designation of areas of green belt elsewhere is as absurd as allowing protected species to become extinct and then reclassifying common species as compensation.”

But he also warns against hypo-crisy, pointing out that those who oppose building more houses are pro-immigration.

He adds: “The one position that is neither morally nor logically tenable is to support mass immigration but refuse to build the homes which people will need.”

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