Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Oakfield & The "Strongest Protection”?

Chris Nutt reports from the CPRE London (Campaign for the Protection of Rural England) launch event this morning where their Report; The "Strongest Protection"? – Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land in Greater London: the Real Story was unveiled. Link to Report. PDF.

Terrific event today to launch ‘The “Strongest Protection”? ‘ publication by the CPRE. BBC London will apparently report it tonight but they can’t get to film Oakfield as they had planned due to programming deadlines or something.

The speakers were, in order, Alice Roberts of the London CPRE, Baroness (Jenny) Jones of the Green Party and Dpty Mayor of the GLA, Zac Goldsmith (Conservative), Stephen Knight of the Lib Dems and Wes Streeting (no intro needed).

Alice said there are now 60 green sites under threat. The Report says Oakfield “is arguably the most alarming case of Green Belt under threat . . “.

Jenny Jones said removal of GB is, among other problems, presenting London with a flood risk. Boris is too laissez faire, passing planning application which go against his own London Plan – allowing building on school playing fields etc.

Zac Goldsmith will protect green spaces if elected mayor – “guaranteed” he said.

Steve Knight said there are 8 million trees in London – one for every resident. If we grow to 11 million by 2030 as planned, we should plan another 3 million trees.

Wes Streeting was pleased that Oakfield is on the front cover of the excellent report. He referred to John Prescott saying, “The Green belt is a Labour achievement and we mean to build on it.” (ho, ho). He said Sadiq Khan will NOT allow building on green belt – and Wes noted the consensus among all the speakers and their Parties on this. He referred to a recent meeting with the RBC Leader (Jas Athwal) to urge him to find and plan to develop Brown Filed sites, utilizing sites however small, and said he had discussed one particular site in detail. He referred to Oakfield and that the Conservatives had designated it for development and the Labour group had continued with this. He affirmed that even if not GB this is irrelevant since it is a vast open space that encourages sport and recreation and the coming together of a diverse community – it’s good to “have this space to bring together children of all backgrounds”. If lost it is lost forever etc. We must protect it to maintain the quality of life enjoyed so far, to walk around our open space. “Oakfield is a wonderful community space.” That’s a direct quote.

I spoke to Wes afterwards and we agreed to meet.

More anon,



  1. Joyce O'Reason8:01 pm, March 10, 2016

    It's all very well defending these sites but no one comes up with a tangible solution to the housing shortage.
    Build on brownfield sites I hear the cry,great idea create homes on some lovely contaminated waste.
    There many brownfield sites in Redbridge...not big enough to cope with demand, so the only way will be "up" with a new wave of tower blocks we all know and love from the 60's and brought such social joys through condensed housing.
    Sadly sites like these are the only options with enough capacity,or the borough will starve itself from any future it has.
    Its lovely to see Mr Prince who's leadership initiated this whole idea,but is now in every photo defending it.
    But credit due to his team for discovering this pot of green gold.I really dont know how the campaigners can ignore the catalyst for the battle they are fighting.

    Readers to this blog should read "The Green Noose" (Tom Papworth)which takes a very different approach to Green Belt and green space development, perhaps a more modern maverick view but one not to rule out when there are no other options left.

    1. The City of New York has a comparable population to that of London at 8.4million (2013) to 8.5million (2014) respectively. And yet New York covers only half the land area (give or take a few square yards) of that of London.
      If the yanks can do successful high rise without the 60s blight we had here, then perhaps we should be looking to see how they have done it and learn from their success?

    2. Joyce O'Reason7:06 pm, March 12, 2016

      How you can compare New York with London bemuses me.
      Many Americans choose this style of living because they have the choice.
      Given no choice but a tower block or live somewhere else is not a comparison.Whats wrong with building houses on a green space and everyone having their own bit of private green space or gardens ,like all the properties surrounding it. Its alright for some but others can go jump because someone wants to kick a ball around a field.
      We cant have it all I accept,but think of our future families,somewhere nice to live with good amenities and transport or a highrise,nowhere to park,built on toxic ground but a nice football pitch.
      These green deserts have no ecological benefit at all.
      At least houses with gardens trees and shrubs will give a massive boost to biodiversity far more than a grass pitch mown and weedkilled systematically .
      I bet the "greens" didnt think of that one did they!!
      Selfish nimby attitudes.

    3. Of course you are bemused by the comparison with New York – it blows a bloody great hole in your argument as witness your own contradictory words. You say that many Americans choose this style of living because they have the choice, yet deny the same choice here.

      And no one is talking about building on toxic land. Brownfield simply means something is already there and of no further use, e.g. the old King George Hospital site at Newbury Park or the Odeon and Q Cars sites at Gants Hill.

      And please get real. All those flats being built are getting snapped up. Otherwise the developers would not be investing in them. People these days don’t want gardens with trees and shrubs and biodiversity. They build bungalows in them and concrete the rest over which does nothing for urban drainage or hedgehogs.

      These “green deserts” as you call them are lined with trees and shrubs, have areas that are not mown, providing insect habitats, and provide many other opportunities for wildlife to live and thrive.

      And the “someone” who wants to kick a ball about amounts to thousands of local people every weekend bringing together diverse communities with social cohesion benefits and saving the taxpayer billions in improved health, both physical and mental, and wellbeing.

      You are correct when you say “we can’t have it all” but you do not seem to accept the option that it might be you who can’t have what they want, disparaging anyone who disagrees with you and ascribing prejudiced motives to them, when in fact those people have merely recognised that if you destroy the reasons why people want to move here you destroy the very community they moved here for, and the district will become just another run down slum.

    4. Joyce O'Reason1:59 pm, March 13, 2016

      These flats you mention are snapped up by housing associations who then home those on welfare,or just rent at extortionate prices.Look at any highrise and you are unlikely to see any owner occupiers or a small %.America doesnt have the same welfare and housing issues London has so the comparisson is flawed unless you think the Projects housing is a nice place to live.People want houses ..if you think they want flats you must be mad.However if the highrise is the best option as you say then there can be some built on Oakfields with plenty of room for football too.
      We will have to agree to disagree,but name a brownfield site large enough to build houses or flats in the numbers wont because they dont exist.
      Get real, do you really think this site would be considered if it wasnt needed?

    5. Again you have not thought through your argument. Sure “some” people want to live in houses but there are also many who want flats. Usually those who don’t have the time, inclination or ability to maintain a garden. There needs to be a balance between the two. And currently most of the housing in the north of the borough is houses.

      And the problems you cite apply equally to low rise housing with buy-to-let/leave investors plus keep-to-let/leave when a property is inherited. There are some streets in London that are deserted because nobody actually lives there and all the local shops have gone because they have no customers.

      We have a broken housing market – the result of a failed neo-Liberal experiment with housing policy. Do you really think those people currently renting the flats you mention will have the means to buy a new-build low-rise property? Who needs to “get real”?

      The New York example indicates that it is possible and desirable. That we have different issues means we need to address those issues and deal with them – not that the comparison is flawed.

      The answer to your question on brownfield is contained in the council’s own Preferred Options Report. Not a single site, mind, but a number of sites that are located in an area of the borough which is the least populated and is currently facing the prospect of reduced electoral representation in the ward boundary review.

    6. Royce O'Wisdom1:39 pm, March 16, 2016

      Young families priced out of rental markets in two-thirds of the UK
      Figures suggest soaring rents make having children financially prohibitive for young couples in southern England and beyond

      London hits record low for new affordable housing, figures show
      Just 6,856 affordable homes were built in 2014-15, with Richmond building just five, says GLA months before mayoral election

      What we need is council housing built on a scale not seen since Macmillan, but there is no prospect of that in the near future, coz Dave’s mates can’t make a profit from it.

  2. The demand for housing is infinite - like building motorways - a demand is satisfied for a short time then demand increases as people realise that further opportunities are presented. People living in older houses want newer ones; those in smaller houses want bigger ones. Like motorways, again, once built they cannot be unbuilt.

    Others have commented that the so-called "housing crisis" is not too few houses but too many people. Assuming that people are not living on the streets then they are living somewhere. If the quality of housing is an issue then what quality is required and in what quantity. I have not seen any properly measured figures on so-called "demand". A lot of assumptions seem to be being made.

    All the political candidates at various elections, recent and future, all say that there is sufficient "brownfield" land in London - taking in Old Oak Common, Barking Riverside and other large sites - so they obviously know where voter opinion lies. We are soon getting Crossrail 1 and a government advisory body has recommended that Crossrail 2 goes ahead, so "key workers" can commute to where the jobs are assuming that fares are kept low. Be aware that people like living (and working) in Redbridge because of its amenities such as open spaces and if those amenities are destroyed then people may not wish to live or work in the Borough. It is quite possible to build ourselves into a recruitment crisis.