Let's turn HS2 rail into new houses to protect our green fields, says ESTHER MCVEY
HOUSING is the ultimate example of supply and demand. The problem is that there is too much demand and not enough supply, and to solve that problem we need to tackle it from both directions.
By ESTHER MCVEY
PUBLISHED: 07:31, Tue, Apr 6, 2021 | UPDATED: 10:31, Tue, Apr 6, 2021
We need to cut demand by reducing immigration to sustainable levels as a Brexit dividend, and we need to increase supply. Last week it was reported that Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, had admitted that to deliver the one million homes needed before the next general election - scheduled for May 2024 - would require building on green fields. To which the CPRE, the countryside charity, pointed out that building on the green belt was already rising and homes proposed to be built on green belt land in 2021 was five times that of 2013.
So what is the point of green belt designation if it is still to be built upon? Rather than touching our green belt, I have an alternative ideaFirst, we need to stop HS2.
This project alone is cutting up and carving out huge swathes of land the length of the country. It's not a thin slice either, it's a massive land grab incorporating acres either side of the tracks. HS2 rips through beauty spots, tears up rural and green land, and destroys villages. Land has already been gobbled up and purchased for this.
HS2 as a project is already out of date. In the words of Monty Python, "It has ceased to be. It's expired and gone to meet its maker." It is our modern-day dead parrot. The pandemic has seen off any justification for this £100 billion white elephant.
In the last year rail travel has dropped by 80 percent and there is no appetite for it to return to pre-Covid levels. Latest figures show only 14 percent of people wish to commute back to the office.
Working from home, saving time and money is increasingly the preferred option for the employee; and saving rent and rates appeals to the employer. This pandemic has quite literally changed the way we see the world and how we wish to live and work.
So, here's the suggestion. The land which has already been compulsorily purchased and awaiting the construction of giant structures - let us instead build houses on it, in keeping with each area, protecting the beautiful visions and vistas and countryside.
Let's take this once-in-a-generation opportunity to create the houses we need, not just for now but for future generations. Let's build for key workers and first-time buyers, retirement homes and council houses. Make this a positive pandemic legacy.
Getting people on the housing ladder is a more urgent priority than giving extra train capacity from the north to London in a post-Covid world.