Building homes on green belt land would result in a ‘huge’ increase in car journeys on roads already struggling with congestion, analysis suggests.
Adding one million residences near railway stations in green belt space surrounding London could see raise the number of car journeys by 7.5m in those locations, according to research into census data by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).
The findings will challenge assumptions that the construction of new homes in agricultural and open land designed to stop London’s urban sprawl could be easily accommodated if they are located within walking or cycling distance of train stations.
It was thought that the majority of residents in such sites would commute by rail to jobs in central London, enabling sustainable housing growth without placing excessive strain on existing roads.
However the RTPI study found only 7.4% of commuters from five existing metropolitan green belt towns travelled to inner London by train on a regular basis.
The Building in the green belt report found 72% of commuters instead travelled by private vehicle, mostly to jobs in their hometown.
Janet Askew, president of the RTPI, said: ‘If one million new homes were built in the green belt in this way, this is likely to result in a huge increase in the number of car journeys being made across the green belt to work, and between schools health facilities and stations.
‘While it is difficult to predict exactly future commuting patterns, the overwhelming evidence is that people will use their cars and this will result in vastly increased numbers of car journeys in and through the green belt.’
The report recommended that brownfield sites be considered as a priority for housing, but conceded not all of these locations would be suitable.
The RTPI said improving transport and infrastructure would be crucial in work to solve the housing crisis.
Trudi Elliott, chief executive of the RTPI, added: ‘The outcome of the analysis was surprising given the range of voices calling for housing around railway stations in the green belt. Our data shows, using one region of the green belt, just how complex the issue of commuting patterns is and how unpredictable they are likely to be in the future.’