Dr Julia Reid MEP, who represents the South West counties and Gibraltar, has slammed Jacob Rees-Mogg after he, once again, attacked the Greenbelt – this time, at the Institute of Economic Affairs’ prize awards ceremony, where he described it as a “corset” that restricts “our housing market to breathe by at least 25%”.
Of course, this is not the first time that Jacob Rees-Mogg has called for increased development on the green belt either. Back in August, he warned his party that they must accept more development on the green belt as it is “not all areas of outstanding natural beauty”. That same month he also wrote an article for the Somerset Guardian, a local paper, in an attempt to qualm fears over a particularly damning report published by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).
In their report, the CPRE warned that there are currently 460,000 homes being planned to be built on land soon to be released from the Green Belt. They also warned that the vast majority of these new builds will still be unaffordable, citing the fact that 72% of homes built on greenfield land within the Green Belt last year were “unaffordable” by the government’s own definition.
In Rees-Mogg’s counter article, he argued that the report “makes the classic mistake of ignoring the dynamics of the housing market” because prices are primarily based on supply and demand. He also said that a shortage of houses“pushes up prices all the way down the chain”. Rees-Mogg concluded his article with a rhetorical question to the readers, asking whether or not planning was there to protect “people who want homes” or those who want “pretty views”.
Responding to Rees-Mogg’s attacks on the green belt, Dr Julia Reid MEP said: “Whilst there is an element of truth to what Jacob says, particularly with regard to what he says about ‘supply and demand’ setting the prices, I think it’s rather interesting that he only ever chooses to address the ‘supply’ part, whilst conveniently ignoring the ‘demand’ part of it.
“Therefore, let’s quickly go over some of the facts that people like Jacob would probably rather you didn’t know. Between April 2015 and the end of March 2017, a total of 287,600 homes have been built in England, which, for a country of its size is actually quite a substantial amount. However, despite the addition of more than 200k new homes last year, it’s still nowhere near enough.
“The fact of the matter is that the population is growing at an unprecedented and unsustainable rate, largely as a result of mass immigration. According to a new report by Migration Watch UK, more than 80 per cent of the population growth in the UK between 2001 and 2016 has been the result of immigration, once births to new immigrants were included. And, given that most immigrants coming to the UK disproportionately end up in England, that figure is undoubtedly going to be even higher.
“And of course, this inevitably puts a huge strain on the housing market. According to the think tank, Migration Watch, over the last ten years, 90% of the additional households created in England were headed by a person born outside the UK. What’s more, despite 1.2 million houses being built in the 10 years between 2005 and 2015, this level of building cannot keep up with demand and a new home will still have to be built every five minutes, day and night, just to house new migrants and their families (based on current levels of net migration).
“As you can see, the problem we’re facing at the moment can more accurately be described as a population crisis rather than a housing crisis. But, of course, this is all too inconvenient for the likes of short-sighted politicians like Jacob Rees-Mogg. I know he’s got his fair share of admirers; however, the fact is, that he’s incredibly weak on immigration. He even went as far as calling UKIP’s vision of Brexit “Sepia tinted” and “1950’s”, which, if you ask me, is rather amusing coming from a man with a collection of top hats, but I digress.
“More importantly, he’s also completely out of touch with the electorate as well, especially with regard to immigration. According to a YouGov poll, published in April this year, 63% of people think that immigration into Britain in the last ten years has been too high. Unsurprisingly, the same poll conducted in the previous two years yielded near identical results.
“Jacob claims that building on the greenbelt will allow the housing market to breathe by at least 25%. However, the same could easily be achieved by reducing immigration to more sustainable levels – all without losing our beloved green belt. England is already the second most densely populated country in the EU and the eighth most crowded country globally. Just how much more of our Green Belt must we give up?”