Green Belt 101

England’s 14 Green Belts cover more than a tenth (12.4%) of land in the country and, according to our research, provide a breath of fresh air for 30 million people. The ever-increasing pressure for more roads, housing and airport expansions means that it is vital to protect the and invest in Green Belts that we have.

Where are England’s Green Belts?

What is Green Belt for?

There are many misconceptions about the Green Belt and its purpose, as outlined in our Green Belt Myths page. Development on Green Belt land is supposed to be tightly controlled so that it can fulfil its main purpose: to serve as a buffer between towns, and between town and countryside. This gives the incentive to regenerate damaged and derelict land within the urban areas surrounded by Green Belt.

At the same time, Green Belts bring social, environmental and economic benefits, while giving people a chance to tap into natural capital on their doorsteps.

Why is Green Belt important?

The Green Belts are a cherished asset, as we have shown through the Our Green Belt campaign, and they’re also extremely valuable for food production, flood prevention, climate change mitigation and much more.

International comparisons suggest that without the strong protection Green Belt designation offers against most forms of development, the countryside around our largest towns and cities would long since have been lost. For example, the city of Los Angeles sprawls more than 50 miles eastwards from its centre.

But the Green Belt has never before faced such serious threat as large sections of land disappear under new developments. CPRE believes this trend must be curtailed.

What’s CPRE’s position?

We’ve already shown that the Green Belt is beloved by communities through the Our Green Belt campaign. But it’s also practical. As outlined in our 2015 Green Belt Under Siege report, CPRE believes the Government should initiate a national land use strategy that includes better protection and management of the Green Belts.

What are some of the challenges?

Green Belts cover more than 6,000 square miles (15,500 square kilometres) of land, around our largest, most historic towns and cities. That land is supposed to be permanently protected – “unless there are exceptional circumstances” – through strict regulation but building on the Green Belt does still go ahead and there are constant threats all over the country, including in London, Kent, Liverpool and Oxfordshire.

Feeling the pressure of unrealistic housing targets from the government, many local authorities resort to releasing Green Belt land for development.

There is a worrying trend of increased proposals for housebuilding on the Green Belt, rising from 81,000 proposed houses in 2012 to 275,000 in 2016 to 360,000 in 2017. Planning inspectors continue to sign off significant releases of Green Belt for development around major cities despite there being ample brownfield land available: from the totals given above, proposals for 86,000 houses in the Green Belt have been signed off since 2012.

Find out more on the CPRE website.