The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis


CASA Working Paper 234

The challenge of sustainably increasing housing supply in Greater London and the Green Belt: A spatial analysis of new build development and travel sustainability 2011-2022

CASA Working Paper 234

20 October 2023


There is a consensus that housing supply in the London region needs to increase substantially to meet demand and try to mitigate record levels of unaffordability. There is not however agreement on the spatial distribution and form that this new housing should take.

This paper analyses the geography of new build housing in Greater London and the wider region between 2011-2022 at neighbourhood (OA and MSOA) scale, focusing on the volume of housing delivery and travel sustainability outcomes. Development is analysed using the Energy Performance Certificate data, with additional data on prices per square metre, 2021 travel patterns and affordable housing. The results show that successive London Plans have delivered high-density housing for boroughs with Opportunity Area sites, and that these developments are low carbon for both travel and energy efficiency metrics. London is however consistently short of its target for 52,000 dwellings annually, with wide discrepancies between boroughs, including in affordable housing. Changes to boost development in Outer London boroughs are needed. Meanwhile, local authorities in the Green Belt have the lowest rates of housing delivery in the South East, high prices, and generally high levels of car dependence. A displacement or ‘leap-frogging’ effect is also evident, with housing development pushed beyond London's Green Belt, creating a ring of car-dependent housing.

The results provide evidence in favour of Green Belt reform, which could increase housing delivery both in Outer London and the wider region. This analysis points to the expansion of existing towns and cities as the most sustainable means of increasing housing supply. Achieving this would require greater regional planning coordination and infrastructure investment.

Author: Duncan A. Smith

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