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Building in the green belt

A report into commuting patterns in the Metropolitan green belt


Cover _imageOver the past year various think tanks, academics and policy commentators have considered whether green belt boundaries around London should be relaxed in order to ease the housing crisis. Their proposals often suggest the release of green belt land within easy walking or cycling distance of railway stations, land which could provide space for upwards of one million homes. The assumption behind these proposals is that the majority of new residents will commute by rail to jobs in central London, enabling sustainable housing growth in the wider Metropolitan region without placing excessive strain on existing roads. However it is difficult to offer insight on the implications of growth on commuting patterns without looking at those already living in the Metropolitan green belt. Where are these residents travelling for work, and what methods of transport are they using to get there?

By using travel-to-work data from the 2011 Census, the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has found that building one million homes around railway stations in the Metropolitan green belt could result in between 3.96 and 7.45 million additional car journeys per week on roads which are already struggling with congestion and delays. These findings also question the extent to which new residents would use trains to access jobs in central London.

The RTPI examined travel-to-work data for five medium-sized towns within the existing Metropolitan green belt, towns which are centred around railway stations and have direct connections to central London. We found that in these five towns, only 7.4% of commuters actually travel to London by train on a regular basis, despite living within easy walking or cycling distance of a station. The majority of commuters (72%) instead travel by private vehicle, mostly driving to jobs within their hometown and to other places not in London.

Click here to download the report (1MB)

Click here to read the press release

Click here to download the RTPI briefing note on the green belt