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Majority of green belt land in London is used for agricultural purposes, according to new report

Local authorities in London should begin to review their green belt land according to a new report published today, after figures revealed that only a 13 per cent of green belt is environmentally protected.

The majority of green belt land, with 76 per cent, is used for agricultural and other purposes such as golf courses, utilities and historic hospitals, according to The Green Belt: A Place for Londoners?

Figures were published by SERC at the London School of Economics, Quod planning consultancy, and business group London First, which also revealed that only 2 per cent of London’s green belt land is built on.

The report called on local authorities to start reviewing their greenbelt, setting out a list of things they should consider when choosing whether to build or not.

It said the starting point for green belt review in London should be to only consider areas that: are close to existing or future transport nodes; are of poor environmental or civic value; could better serve London’s needs by supporting residential development with “truly accessible” green space.

The report pointed out that the National Planning Policy Framework gives five purposes of the green belt, which are: check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas; prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another; assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment; preserve the setting and special character of historic towns; and assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land.

The report argued that the modern purposes of green belt land “bear very little relation” to the original version of green belt land as the “green lungs of the city where town dwellers could find tranquillity and recreational space”.

It concluded that London’s boroughs should be encouraged to review their green belt and consider how the land within it can be used most effectively whilst protecting its green spaces.

It said the review should be in line with existing planning policy and highlighted a recent recommendation in a communities and local government committee report on the NPPF, which urged all councils, as part of their planning process, to review the size and boundaries of heir green belts.

In numbers:

  • 76% of London’s green belt is used for agriculture and other purposes such as golf courses, utilities, historic hospitals
  • 13% of London’s green belt is made up of environmentally protected land;
  • 13% of London’s green belt is made up of parks and public access land;
  • 2% of London’s green belt is built on
  • 27.6% of London is covered by buildings, roads, paths, and railways;
  • 22% of all the land within London’s boundary is greenbelt;
  • The total volume of land classed as ‘green’ in London outstrips that land that is built on by a ratio of more than 2:1 (64.9% vs 27.6%);

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