Greenbelt targeted in UK housing push
By Sinead Cruise
LONDON (Reuters) - British housebuilders will need to build on protected greenbelt land around London and other major cities to meet targets of 240,000 new homes a year by 2016, a key British government advisor said on Thursday.
The Callcutt Review, an independent study commissioned by the government, said ambitions to boost Britain's depleted housing stock by up to 2 million dwellings in the next eight years were achievable but some greenfield development was necessary as the UK's population swells.
"Much more former commercial or industrial land should be used and whilst new settlements and greenfield sites will have to make a contribution, the proportion of greenfield development should be minimized," John Callcutt, head of the review, said in a statement.
A shortage of housing has helped to treble house prices in the last ten years. According to the Land Registry, the average cost of a home in England and Wales is now 230,474 pounds ($475,400), pricing out many first-time buyers.
Housebuilders have delivered an average 166,000 new homes a year since 2000, according to the National House Building Council but the review said they would need to increase their output by a more than a third to meet targets, raising prospects of a construction boom.
The report said regenerating derelict city space was a priority but bowed to the controversial idea of new housing in protected countryside areas.
"Unless we continue to regenerate our towns and cities, they will decline and in turn force more development to the edge of town and out into our countryside," Callcutt said.
The proposals could lead to a trickle of development on protected land in and around heavily populated areas, including protected countryside surrounding London, which has enabled the UK capital to avoid the urban sprawl seen in some global cities.
The Callcutt review, commissioned in December by Ruth Kelly, the former Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said developers and local authorities should share responsibility for meeting the targets by freeing up redundant inner city sites and improving the regulatory framework.
"The industry is in shape to deliver the homes we need for future generations but we must create the market conditions to attract investment on the scale required," Callcutt said.
The review also said national demand for new homes should not come at the expense of other government targets to increase sustainability of residential communities by building low-carbon, energy efficient properties.
The British Property Federation, a key industry body, said it welcomed the review's findings.
"By looking to develop strategic and long-term partnerships between councils and developers, we can guarantee the regeneration of our deprived areas, by offering private firms the carrot of more profitable work in others," it said.
(Editing by David Holmes/Elaine Hardcastle)