The future of green belts – landscape insights by Tom Jenner

The Landscape Institute recently aimed several questions at the debate over the future of Green Belt land, relating to topics such as coverage, condition, accessibility and management. It now asks whether conservation and construction can be accomplished together and seeks to set out the principles and strategies that will inform Green Belt planning.

Landscape Institute exhibition
Landscape Institute exhibition Beyond the Green Belt

It would be interesting to make the Green Belt debate even more forward-thinking to consider the pressures that will be faced in the much longer term, when population growth will presumably be exceeding housing provision at an even greater rate and pressure on the green belt and other rural locations will be so immense that we won’t be able to maintain the approach of total protection and conservation. Another factor to consider is the impact of climate change, which could have a number of impacts in terms of land availability and population.


Perhaps one possible direction for the Green Belt could be that it is retained as a principle, but  assimilated into a new larger GI approach to the entire country. An approach that doesn’t just adopt the traditional focus on urban vs. rural and managing impacts but a more holistic view of landscape – since the protected rural clearly won’t be protected forever, the more effective integration of GI and combined land uses into urban growth could mean the difference between complete loss of valued characteristics and their retention in a new or adapted form.

How much longer can we / should we protect our green belts from development?
How much longer can we / should we protect our green belts from development?

In theory conservation and construction can work in harmony, just as sustainable development can readily be achieved. However, these concepts require buy-in by all involved and a commitment to change even if it means flying in the face of convention. It’s right to rethink the green belt at this point but is it actually an unsustainable concept no matter how well restored, transformed or managed?


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