With demand for properties now urgent, protecting so much land is a luxury Britain can no longer afford
Where I grew up, on the Essex fringe of London, there’s a street that was never finished. The numbering of Goodwood Avenue, Hornchurch, begins at around 350 but before it reaches 200 the road just stops. Beyond, there’s nothing but marshy fields stretching out to the Thames, four miles away.
This particular estate was begun in the 1930s when the capital was still expanding. But it was left unfinished after the second world war, when preventing sprawl was the order of the day. The creation of the metropolitan green belt fixed the boundaries of London as wherever the suburbs happened to stop. So Goodwood Avenue stops midway at an unconvincing simulacrum of countryside that’s hemmed in by homes on three sides. There are two tube stations within a mile, yet despite the housing shortage, there’s no building on this land. Not because it’s unsuitable; simply because nobody’s ever built there.