At engineering school we learned one of the costs of the black hole that is London, whose gravitational pull was once so great that everything in the island was drawn inexorably into its maw. In this case it was sand and aggregate - an effect known as the Aggregate Drag.
Essentially all sand and gravel quarried in the south-east is delivered in the direction of London; gravel from Chelmsford will go to London, gravel from Ipswich will go to Chelmsford and gravel from Diss will go to Ipswich. Likewise roadstone from the Midlands and the north is always (in aggregate, ahem, terms) delivered southwards. So pernicious are the economic and transport infrastructure effects of this drag that interventions have frequently been made with the intention of by-passing the movements. London plans have preserved sand and gravel wharves right in the heart of the city, from Deptford to Richmond, to take millions of tons of traffic from the roads radiating to Kent and Anglia. The aim is to take gravel from Diss and such parts direct to London and leave Ipswich and Chelmsford supplying themselves. Railheads have been established in Scots 'superquarries' that hollow-out entire mountains to send millions of tonnes of Scots roadstone directly into coating plants in the heart of London rather than into Northumberland. And so on.
London's insatiable demand for building and expansion led the well-intentioned but over-controlling planners of post-war London, with a masterplan known universally as the Abercrombie Plan, to create a green belt. In the same way as they sought to control Aggregate Drag they sought to control People Drag; establishing a series of new towns on the other side of the green belt. This is an original plan -
In a matter of months we have undergone a decade's worth (in more normal times) of change. The culture wars have left the workplace a minefield in which first smoking then alcohol and finally human contact has been banned as too hazardous. Lawyers and HR departments were in the ascendant, 'micro aggressions' lurked round every corner, and one couldn't even move someone's yoghurt pot in the office fridge without risking a misconduct hearing. You can get away with this nonsense in the BBC and the public sector, where maintaining the right diversity quota is always more important than actual output, productivity and efficiency, but the new mores have hit the private sector hard.
Covid has actually come as a welcome shock-adjustment for many firms. Overnight whole legions of HR executives monitoring breaches of fridge-etiquette are redundant, as are lawyers taking on yoghurt-pot cases for no win no fee. Workers can crack a beer in their home offices without breaching company policy, and hug their spouses or significant others without risk of disciplinary action. Of course we have still to work out some important stuff like how employer's liability in law will work if a home-worker trips on a printer cable, whether home offices are lawful in planning terms, who will pay for the heat, light, power and water consumed to the firm's benefit by household-based workers and so on. But such solutions will come.
More significantly, housing demand in and around London will start to fall. If you can work remotely from Harlow, why not Bishop Auckland? Or Austria? And if housing demand falls, then so will pressure to develop the green belt. Covid could turn out to be a very green disease.