The History

One of the principal reasons for the creation of Green Belt was to create a permanent ring of countryside to control urban growth and stop the disastrous ribbon developments of the 1920s and 1930s.

There are 14 Green Belts in England and Wales, covering roughly 13% of total land area.

Oxford’s Green Belt

London had the first Green Belt.  In 1955 other cities recognised the merits of Green Belts and introduced them into their development plans. Oxford’s Green Belt was established in 1955, just over sixty years ago and was established to permanently protect the heritage and setting of this irreplaceable historic City.

Purposes Of Green Belt

The purposes of Green Belts have been set out in government documents: first the Planning Policy Guidance: Green Belts (PPG2); then in 2012 the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), specifically Section 9 Protecting Green Belt land, paragraphs 7992 and all Local Plans are required to conform to this guidance.

Particularly pertinent sections of the NPPF are quoted below:

Paragraph 79:  The Government attaches great importance to Green Belts. The fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open; the essential characteristics of Green Belts are their openness and their permanence.

Paragraph 80:  The 5 basic purposes of Green Belts have remained unchanged:

  • To check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas
  • To prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another
  • To assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment
  • To preserve the setting and special character of historic towns
  • To assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land

Paragraph 83:  Local planning authorities with Green Belts in their area should establish Green Belt boundaries in their Local Plans which set the framework for Green Belt settlement policy. Once established, Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances.

The above quoted from here

Tory Government White Paper Confirms And Adds To Measures To Safeguard Green Belt

The Government’s White Paper on Housing, Feb 2017, ‘Fixing our broken housing market’ emphasises the Government’s commitment to Green Belt land:

1.37: Our Manifesto commits ours to be the first generation to leave the Natural environment better than we found it.

1.38: Our manifesto reiterated our commitment to protecting Green Belt. The National Planning Policy Framework is already clear that Green Belt boundaries should be amended only “in exceptional circumstances:

The Government wants to retain a high bar to ensure the Green Belt remains protected, but we also wish to be transparent about what this means in practice so that local communities can hold their councils to account. 

1.39: Therefore we propose to amend and add to national policy to make clear that:

Authorities should amend Green Belt only when they can demonstrate that they have examined fully all other reasonable options for meeting their identified development requirements.   Including making effective use of suitable brownfield sites and the opportunities offered by estate regeneration.

Above quoted from Government White Paper found here

Plenty of Other Land to Build On

Around the time the White Paper came out Gavin Barwell, then Housing Minister, stated in his speech at the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE)’s Annual Lecture:

‘Around 11% of the surface area of England is already developed. A further 13% is Green Belt. Allowing for the fact that 40% is covered by protective designations, such as national parks, there is still plenty of other land to build on without having to concrete over swathes of our precious green belt’.

See here

Green Belt Benefits City and Country Dwellers Alike 

In addition to the original 5 purposes of Green Belt, PPG2 recognised their role in certain other objectives, now widely accepted, including:

  • providing individuals with opportunities for recreation and engaging in outdoor sport close to urban areas (ie not football stadia)
  • giving protection to farmland
  • assisting nature conservation by defending habitats and wildlife corridors
  • protecting the individual and unique character of villages by saving them from absorption into cities 
  • improving the health or urban populations by safeguarding air quality (as the Green Belt is often referred to as a City’s “green lungs”) and by providing for healthy physical exercise in the countryside.