Landscape Planning Blog

Blogpost on Workshop 5: Landscape Planning 

When it comes to the Metropolitan Green Belt, the question of landscape enhancement is inevitable. We turned to the Landscape Institute to understand some of the views on the relationship between Green Belt and landscape.

We identified three broad areas to consider if we want to make the most of the landscapes in the Metropolitan Green Belt.

First, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) does not seem to be adapted to deal effectively with landscapes in Green Belt boundaries. We can find several reasons behind this, including:

  • There are different Green Belts in different parts of the country. Therefore, having a national policy on Green Belts does not allow for the differentiation of the specific needs some Green Belts have. For instance, if it is true that cities such as Oxford or Cambridge are historic cities, where purpose 4: “to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns” has clear implications for landscape. However, for London it is a crude tool that seeks almost exclusively to limit the outward growth of the city.
  • Another reason why the NPPF is not adapted to landscape enhancement is that landscape and biodiversity are not mentioned in the 5 purposes of the Green Belts. Even if these are present in other parts of the NPPF, they would tend to weigh less when conducting green belt reviews, which will then focus mainly on spatial planning policy.

Second, there is the question of structures that allow for joined-up thinking and management in the Green Belt. Understanding the NPPF and planning for better landscapes in the Green Belt cannot work without the appropriate leadership. This could take the appearance of a joint committee along a growth corridor. Such an organization would be useful to set a strategy for the short term and the long term and to understand what areas are to be developed to tackle the South East housing crisis. Colne Valley Park exemplifies the complexity of a multi-ownership model from which lessons might be learned.

Finally, funding and training. Again, it would be useful to look at models that have worked. Lee Valley is a successful funding/governance model, but its particular situation makes it difficult to reproduce. More generally, finding a model that would work for the next 50 years is important as landscape planning requires consistency. This raises questions about different mechanisms, such as:

  • The potential of a Green Belt levy on development in former green belt to fund improvements in remaining green belt.
  • The need for better environmental expertise in Local Authorities.