Workshop 2 blog: Green Belt reviews and their outcomes

Blog post – Workshop 2: Green Belt reviews and their outcomes 

For our second workshop, we wanted to look at a more practical way of understanding planning in the green belt. Due to the lack of guidance from the government, green belt assessments and green belt boundary reviews are currently the only way for local authorities to define a strategy on their green belt within their area. The objective of this workshop was to look at how green belt reviews are created and how they can influence change in the Metropolitan Green Belt.

Two presentations were given by ARUP and GL Hearn. The experts from ARUP explained their methods of reviewing the green belt. These methods have evolved through the years and need to be adapted to each area studied. The point of a green belt review is not per se to decrease the amount of green belt land within an area. In fact, a green belt review can also conclude that no change is necessary or that the green belt should be expanded.

ARUP bases its methodology on the 5 purposes of the NPPF and also looks at other forms of guidance to inform its strategy. Their review is done in two stages, each of them having several steps in which they assess the characteristics of each parcel against the NPPF purposes. This pure form of assessment, if as partial as possible, has its limits: it doesn’t take into account the needs and pressures for housing and infrastructure, i.e. the exact reasons why the review was ordered. 

GL Hearn based their presentation on their project ‘Mega Planning, Beyond 2050 – MegaPlan for a MegaCity’ selected as a winning idea by the New Ideas for Housing competition by the New London Architecture. Their idea is to propose a long term strategy for housing in London. They created the concept of “Edge Land”, which is green belt land inside the M25 boundaries. In order to alleviate the housing crisis, they estimated that less than 4% of this Edge Land would be necessary to release. Green Belt reviews would be needed to define which Edge Land to look at. The risk is however to have a very London-centric model, with a lack of governance between local authorities.

The discussion highlighted several hazy notions from planning documents: what is a town? When is history? Many participants expressed the need to base reviews on a wider area but when looking at London and its green belt, what exactly is wide or small? However important these difficulties are, the main limitation to a strategic and coherent green belt review remains the lack of duty to cooperate (and agree) between local authorities.