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3 Oct 2014
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Tom Feilden Is the Green Belt an Outdated Concept?

by Tom Feilden
"I want to ensure that we achieve our twin aims of urban renaissance and that we hand a green and pleasant land on to future generations"

Those were the words of the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott in the House of Commons as he announced a new approach to planning policy and development in 1998. Even as he was promising that the countryside was safe in Labour's hands however, Mr Prescott was signing plans for the single biggest incursion into the green belt since the war.

Up to 10,000 new homes are to be built on open fields to the west of Stevenage.

Tim Ackroyd lives in the middle of the proposed development. He told me the news came as a shock.

"We always understood that this was green belt, that the green belt would be permanent and it wouldn't be built on", he said. "And also it's an area of outstanding beauty ... it came as a thunder bolt."

The present proposal is that there should be 5,000 houses built by about 2015, and a second phase of another 5,000 thereafter.

"At present the A1 Motorway has stopped the expansion of Stevenage in this direction and very successfully. Our great fear is that once they've leapt that motorway, where is it going to stop?"

"The green belt is one of the few policies that's both successful and popular. It really has contained cities and towns, and ensured that you get urban renaissance rather than sprawl into the countryside."

Michael Halsam, President of the Royal Town Planning Institute says, "There are now tensions between Government policy that wishes to see more sustainable housing; the 60% target for brown-field land leaves a target of 40% for green-field land. We're looking to try and find sites on the edges of towns, rather than leap-frogging into the open countryside."

Henry Oliver, Head of Planning at the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) believes green belts are very effective and popular.

"Just because development leap-frogs the green belt, that doesn't mean the green belt isn't working", he said. "That means that development control beyond the green belt and efforts to encourage regeneration within cities need to be redoubled."

Council for the Protection of Rural England
Royal Town Planning Institute
Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions

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