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Golf Is Starting To Help Solve London’s Housing Crisis


If you agree with Mark Twain that golf is a good walk spoiled, a new housing development in Prime Minister Theresa May’s constituency 30 miles from London will be music to your ears — and it might just provide a template to help ease the capital’s housing crisis.

A big issue in building enough housing for London is finding available land. A big block to finding available land is the Greenbelt. And a big part of the Greenbelt is given over to golf.

The Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead council has appointed Savills to find a development partner to build 2,000 homes on a chunk of the 132-acre Maidenhead Golf Course, owned by the local golf club.

It is a short walk from Maidenhead train station, where from 2019 Crossrail will allow residents to get to Bond Street in 41 minutes, a third less than the current journey time.

Of the homes being built, 30% will be affordable. In spite of opposition from the local community, the council is pushing on with the scheme, arguing that the voice of the silent majority who did not own homes was being drowned out by those already on the property ladder.

“By developing on this site we will create homes for our children and grandchildren to buy,” cabinet member for economic development, property and deputy for finance councillor Jack Rankin said.

Building on golf courses that are part of the Greenbelt like the one in Maidenhead could have a big impact on housing supply, necessary if London is to adequately house its growing population.

London School of Economics academic Paul Cheshire estimated around 7.1% of London’s Greenbelt is made up by golf courses, which are closed off to the public and not good for the environment.

In Surrey around 2.65% of the county is made up of golf courses, he estimates — more than is given over to housing.

He argued that golf courses and facilities for horse riding got an unfair subsidy compared to housebuilding. It is easier to build golf courses on Greenbelt land than houses because of the way they are categorised by planning laws. They are also cheap to build because waste materials can be used in their landscaping rather than being put in landfill.

“The combination of Greenbelt designation and landfill costs means we can build as many golf courses as the market demands at their subsidised price but we cannot build houses,” he said. “It is time to start turning some of our excess supply of golf courses into gardens; with houses on them.”