De Pol in the media: Greenbelt is an emotive and complex issue, one that deserves more of our attention. De Pol MD Alexis De Pol explains.

“There are some huge misconceptions regarding the amount of land in the UK which is developed, what land comprises Green Belt, and what the designation means.

A land cover atlas of the UK in 2017 demonstrated that just 6% of the UK is developed and the country is actually dominated by pasture and arable land. The Royal Statistical Society also concluded the proportion of land in the UK which could be classed as ‘densely built up’ is only 0.1%, but the report found members of the public, on average, assumed it to be around 47%.

Greenbelt defined

Some believe that all open countryside is Green Belt, but that’s not the case. Green Belt is carefully defined and serves a specific purpose, for example preventing towns and villages from merging, and preserving the setting and special character of historic towns.

Fylde Borough, for example, is characterised by a significant amount of open countryside. While this countryside is subject to planning policies restricting development, only around 10% is actually designated as Green Belt. In fact, across Lancashire, the Green Belt areas defined over 20 years ago cover just a quarter of the county despite it being a particularly rural county.

Acceptable development 

Another misconception is that development is entirely prohibited within the Green Belt, again this isn’t quite so black and white. Certain types of development are deemed acceptable and the planning system allows a balancing exercise to be undertaken, acknowledging circumstances where the benefits of a development outweigh the harm. The bar is certainly higher for Green Belt than for general open countryside, but just because the land or property is within the Green Belt doesn’t mean development is automatically precluded.

There are few who would argue for the end of the Green Belt, indeed it is quite right to have protections in place. But it also has to be acknowledged that circumstances do change, especially where Green Belt was defined some time ago. Sometimes land included within a broad Green Belt boundary doesn’t really serve the intended purposes. And where Green Belt wraps tightly around a settlement in need of new homes, it seems inevitable that some will have to be released to deliver housing requirements.”

For more information about our experience in the rural sector, view our case studies

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