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Landscape Institute calls for green belt review

Words: Laura Edgar
Green belt review called for / iStock-638005198

Green belt policy should be addressing issues such as flood risk and air pollution, as well as biodiversity enhancement, according to the Landscape Institute.

The chartered body for the landscape profession has called for “fresh thinking” on green belt policy in a briefing that seeks to address the housing crisis, and lead the debate on the UK Government’s 25-year environment plan and England’s revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

The briefing notes that green belt policy pre-dates the 2012 version of the NPPF, which advocates the presumption in favour of sustainable development, and was not updated following its publication.

In short, the briefing calls for:

  • A Natural Capital Accounting approach to the green belt.
  • A nationally accepted methodology for green belt boundary reviews.
  • The UK Government to undertake a strategic review of green belt policies and guidance as part of the proposed revisions to the NPPF and National Planning Practice Guidance (2018).
  • The Welsh Government to undertake a strategic review of green belt policies as part of the proposed revisions to Planning Policy for Wales.
  • The Scottish Parliament to undertake a strategic review of green belt policies and guidance as part of the passage of the Planning (Scotland) Bill.

Therefore, the briefing states, “as a single-issue designation, green belt does not sit well with current evidence-based policy-making and decision-making”.

The revised NPPF, currently out for consultation, is an opportunity to update its green belt guidance. The Landscape Institute points out that many emerging plans propose the release of land from the green belt, but there isn’t any best practice or nationally accepted procedure for how green belt boundaries should be reviewed.

“In our view, any local green belt review should take account of the range of planning mechanisms that are available to protect and enhance the potential functionality of green belt land.”

Green belt policy should address issues such as flood risk, air pollution, and health and well-being, as well as consider societal need for climate change mitigation and biodiversity enhancement. The policy should be clear on what the green belt is, and what it is for.

The Landscape Institute’s briefing also calls on the Welsh Government to undertake a strategic review of green belt policies and guidance as part of the consultation on the next iteration of Planning Policy Wales, which closes on Friday 18 May. It wants the Scottish Parliament to review green belt policies and guidance as the Planning (Scotland) Bill evolves.

Merrick Denton-Thompson, president at the Landscape Institute, said the public deserves a system that protects the green belt and that they can trust.

“We all want beautiful, functional green land around our towns and cities. A review that firmly re-establishes green belt principles might allow new development in some areas. But it equally could mean new green belts in places that don’t have them.”

“Open land is a finite and irreplaceable asset in the UK,” added policy committee chair Kate Bailey.

“The Landscape Institute urges people to move away from the idea that green belt is good simply because it is there. Green belt policy has been very effective in many locations over many years, but if redefined as natural capital, green infrastructure or strategic open space, its transformation and enrichment could deliver far greater benefit.”

The briefing can be found here on the Landscape Institute website (pdf).

The RTPI’s green belt policy

The RTPI’s policy statement Where Should We Build New Homes? states that “green belt boundaries may well need to change, but only through careful reviews over wider areas than single local authorities, and where safeguards are put in place to ensure that development is sustainable, affordable and deliverable in a timely manner, and without prejudice to the renewal of brownfield land”.

It notes that a brownfield first policy will fail to deliver the land’s full potential if there is insufficient funding for the treatment and assembly of land.

Read more:

RTPI: Greenfield and green belts can help provide homes

RTPI to lead NPPF consultation with members

News report: Chief planner weighs up new Planning Policy Wales

News analysis: RTPI Scotland critiques the planning bill

Action plans required if housing delivery falls below requirement, draft PPG outlines

News report: The government's environment plan: what you need to know

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