Green Belt

Darwin's Green Belt, Downe, Kent. © Oliver Hilliam

There is growing demand to review existing legislation around Green Belt land, which is used to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open.

The government believes Green Belt land should continue to be protected from development, and there are organisations and individuals who agree with this. However, there is also an increasing demand to review Green Belt policy primarily because of the need to build more homes.

The issues being discussed in the current Green Belt debate include using the protected land for:

  • housing development
  • tackling pollution, climate-change adaptation and mitigation
  • connecting towns and cities to surrounding countryside
  • food production

Why Green Belt legislation is important

The idea of protecting land from development isn’t new. For instance, economist and philosopher Sir William Petty called for land near London to be saved from development in the 1600s.

But it wasn’t until 1938 that legislation was introduced to protect land around cities from development, mostly in England. The Green Belt (London and Home Counties) Act, 1938, meant local authorities could buy land and protect it as ‘Green Belt’.

Further government planning reforms led to Green Belt policy being enshrined in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in 2012. The NPPF sets out the five purposes of Green Belt. These are to:

  1. Check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas.
  2. Prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another.
  3. Assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment.
  4. Preserve the setting and special character of historic towns.
  5. Assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land.

The Future of Green Belt: a member consultation

Increasingly, a number of organisations and individuals are voicing the opinion that Green Belt policy should be reviewed. In early 2016, the LI invited its members to submit their thoughts on current Green Belt policy and their ideas for the future.

“In my view the government needs the skills and innovation of landscape planners, landscape architects and landscape managers to renew and transform the Green Belt, by giving it new values relevant to the demands of the 21st century.”

LI President Merrick Denton-Thompson)

The LI’s consultation on Green Belt presented a brief history of Green Belt policy, a summary of the current and some of the key issues that members might like to consider. (PDF, 1.18MB)

The responses have been analysed by the LI’s Policy and Communications Committee and a summary is available in Green Belt Policy: analysis of the results of a consultation by the LI (PDF, 1.18MB)

Making Green Belt a priority

The LI’s Policy and Communications Committee have agreed that Green Belt should be a key policy priority in the future. An expert panel will soon be established to guide the future direction of the LI’s work on this important subject.