Green Belt

Helix Park lies in the Green Belt between Falkirk and Grangemouth. © Scottish Canals

Green Belt policy briefing – a new vision

The Landscape Institute is calling for a strategic review of planning policy to redefine the purpose of Green Belt land.

We believe Green Belt should have a multi-functional role as part of a UK-wide green infrastructure framework. Our Green Belt policy briefing paper calls for new and innovative delivery mechanisms to put these changes into action.

The paper considers opportunities to transform the landscape of the Green Belt, repositioning it to deliver social and environmental objectives. We believe Green Belt should:

  • encourage healthy lifestyles and contact with nature
  • reduce flood risk and pollution
  • improve water and air quality
  • promote social cohesion
  • facilitate sustainable new development
  • enhance biodiversity
  • mitigate climate change

Read more: Beyond the Green Belt: an exhibition at The Building Centre, London

While successful in its original aim to keep land around urban areas permanently open, Green Belt requires ongoing re-evaluation to ensure its continued relevance.

The LI advocates a strategic review of Green Belt policies and guidance. We urge the UK Government to use the proposed revision to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to align Green Belt policy with current planning guidance. We also urge the Welsh Government and Scottish Parliament to undertake a strategic review of Green Belt policies and guidance:

  1. as part of the proposed revisions to Planning Policy for Wales; and
  2. as part of the review of Scottish Planning Policy and National Planning Framework

Background: the LI Green Belt member consultation

‘The government needs the skills and innovation of landscape professionals to renew and transform the Green Belt, giving it new values relevant to the demands of today.’

LI President Merrick Denton-Thompson

This briefing paper is the result of more than two years’ work, and collates the views of almost two hundred members. In late 2015, the LI invited members to share their thoughts on current Green Belt policy and their ideas for the future. The consultation document gave a brief history of Green Belt and summarised some of the key issues that members might wish to consider.

View a summary and analysis of the responses.

Green Belt legislation: a history

The idea of protecting land from development dates back as far as the 1600s, when economist and philosopher Sir William Petty called for land near London to be saved from development. But it wasn’t until 1938 that the government introduced formal legislation. The Green Belt (London and Home Counties) Act 1938 gave local authorities the power to buy and protect Green Belt land.

Further 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

Green Belt policy predates the NPPF’s ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’. The LI believes that, as a single-issue designation, Green Belt does not align with current evidence-based policy-making. While successful in its original aims, we argue that Green Belt legislation requires ongoing re-evaluation to ensure its continued relevance.