In years gone by, the protection afforded to areas designated as Green Belt land has visibly diminished, as the demand for affordable housing and civic amenities for the UK’s booming population has grown.
Figures released by construction consultancy Glenigan in June 2015 bear this out, and revealed a 430% rise in planning application approvals for developments on Green Belt land over the past five years.
The reasons for this aren’t difficult to fathom and can largely be traced back to the Coalition Government’s decision to push through new planning regulations in 2012 that – essentially – relaxed the rules on developing Green Belt land.
The upturn in the UK economy has also played a part, as property developers look to tap into the demand for new housing stock that people who struggled to get a foot on the property ladder during the recession are now driving.
But that’s only part of the story. The previous government also actively encouraged local councils to prioritise the reuse of Brownfield sites over building on Green Belt land.
It’s this policy, in particular, that has paved the way for much of the residential redevelopment going on in Hayes Town at the moment, for example, in anticipation of the arrival of Crossrail in 2018-19.
The completion of the high-frequency trainline is widely-tipped to prompt a rise in house prices within Hayes and the surrounding area, as it delivers on its goal to make it easier and quicker for people to travel into Central London.
If the expected impact on property prices turns out to be true, the demand for new housing in the area is likely to follow, which could – theoretically – put more pressure on the council to permit development on Green Belt sites like Hayes Farm.
And it’s for all these reasons local residents are so concerned about the fate of Home Farm and its open spaces once the 144-acre stretch of Green Belt land it sits within is sold off.
As it stands, though, no planning permission of any kind has been sought for the land, despite its imminent sale, which makes it difficult at this point to gauge how much of a fight lies ahead.
Even so, there’s no denying the uncertainty over the situation has got local residents worried.
The area has faced similar threats in the past, the most recent one being in 2011, and nothing came of it. But, that was before the relaxation of the planning laws, and at a time when the economy was still largely in the doldrums.
A lot has changed in four years, and just because plans to develop the site failed to win the approval of Hillingdon Council in 2011, it would be foolhardy to assume that would automatically be the case this time around.
One bright spot on the horizon is the contents of Hillingdon Council’s 2013 Green Belt Assessment Update. In it, a large portion of the Home Farm site was earmarked for retention as Green Belt, on the grounds that its presence will protect this area of Hayes from the effects of “urban sprawl.”
However, as the picture shows, this designation (pictured right) doesn’t appear to cover the entire site that’s up for sale (pictured left), which should be just cause for local concern.