Green Belt is one of the most popular and successful planning policies on the statute book.
Green Belts are areas of countryside around our major cities where development can only take place under ‘exceptional circumstances’.
We welcome the new Government’s commitment to protect Green Belt but are monitoring whether local authorities respond postively to that commitment.
In the West Midlands there are three Green Belts. One round Birmingham, the Black Country and Coventry, (which extends out as far as town such Rugby, Leamington Spa, Warwick, Alcester, Kidderminster, Bridgnorth, Telford, Rugeley, Lichfield and Nuneaton), one round the North Staffordshire conurbation and a few patchy areas around Burton.
As well as forming rings round our cities, they include important green wedges stretching into the cities, for example, from Lichfield to the Sandwell Valley.
Our Green Belts include some of the most beautiful and accessible countryside in the region, for example, the Clent Hills. However the role of Green Belts is primarily to stop our cities sprawling outwards, as they have in areas of countries like America and Australia.
They help to ensure our cities are compact and sustainable, including reducing the amount of travel (and hence Carbon dioxide emissions).
But Green Belt is always under threat. In the past, for example, the growth of the National Exhibition Centre and Birmingham Airport have eaten deeply into the Meriden Gap, the thin wedge of Green Belt between Birmingham, Solihull and Coventry. The M6 Toll was built entirely on Green Belt land.
Now there are new threats. Housing still threatens to compromise Green Belt around many of our towns despite the new Government’s intentions to protect Green Belt from development. Proposals for large megadepots would also be likely to be built in Green Belt because of the presence of the M6 Toll, itself a major incursion into Green Belt. Plans for Strategic Park and Ride sites also include Green Belt proposals, such as Brinsford, near Wolverhampton.
CPRE believes such proposals should be resisted and the high standard of proof needed to build on Green Belt should be maintained. We also appreciate that not all Green Belt in the West Midlands is of the same ecological or amenity value. We would like to see those areas improved for everyone’s benefit, provided it is not achieved as a quid pro quo for relaxing planning constraints in the Green Belt.
Work on improving the Green Belt was included in the RSS Phase 3 review. CPRE supported improvements to the Green Belt which improves its benefits for nature and make it easier for people to access the countryside provided this is not done in a way which allows innapropriate development or leads to ‘second grade’ Green Belt. We will be pressing local authorities to continue to take this forward.
CPRE WM has produced it own detailed report on Green Belt which explains the history, policy and scope of Green Belt in more detail.
Note: Green Belt is commonly confused with green field land. The later is land which has not been previously developed, such as open fields and woodland, wherever it is. Green Belt is a specificaly designated area and may itself include land which is not green field, for example, old hospital sites. On such sites redevelopment is often restricted to the footprint of existing buildings.