What are Green Belts?

As a planning concept, Green Belts have been around almost as long as the modern Town and Country Planning System. They were first suggested in the 1930s, but it was the new Town and Country Planning Act in 1947 that gave local authorities powers to designate them.

The purpose of Green Belts has remained largely the same since then, and current government advice sets out five purposes for including land in one. These are:
1. To check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas.
2. To prevent neighbouring towns from merging into one another.
3. To assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment.
4. To preserve the setting and special character of historic towns.
5. To assist in urban regeneration by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land.

Not all land outside built up areas is designated Green Belt. They are mainly identified as a ring of designated land of differing widths around some major cities. The Metropolitan Green Belt surrounding London is one example. The other main area in the south east covers the land around Oxford, in Oxfordshire.