BUILDING on the greenbelt provokes powerful emotions among communities and developers, with the former objecting to the loss of countryside, and the latter pointing out the urgent need for more homes.
Yet too many proposed greenbelt developments fail to address the most pressing demand for homes in rural areas – that of affordable housing for young people trying to get on the property ladder. Without retaining, and attracting, such new blood rural communities are at risk of social and economic decline.
Instead, new-builds are often executive homes aimed at the upper end of the market, eating into the countryside whilst urban areas go undeveloped. The concerns expressed about the loss of greenbelt in areas such as Ilkley and Craven demand to be listened to.
Policy-makers need to heed the voices of these communities. It is politically dangerous not to do so, and also reckless of the future of our precious countryside, which if not guarded may be gradually concreted over and sold to those with the means of buying an upmarket home.
This debate over greenbelt development also needs to take place in the wider context of the changing faces of towns and cities, which are being hollowed out by changes in the way people live and shop. They must be reimagined and reinvented if they are to thrive, and that means building homes.
The challenge for policy-makers is to strike a balance between urban and rural development which has the welfare of both town and country at its heart.