Green belt

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Greenbelt in Tehran, Iran Tochal from Modarres Expressway.jpg
Greenbelt in Tehran, Iran

A green belt is a policy and land-use zone designation used in land-use planning to retain areas of largely undeveloped, wild, or agricultural land surrounding or neighboring urban areas. Similar concepts are greenways or green wedges, which have a linear character and may run through an urban area instead of around it. In essence, a green belt is an invisible line designating a border around a certain area, preventing development of the area and allowing wildlife to return and be established.



In those countries which have them, the stated objectives of green belt policy are to:

The green belt has many benefits for people:

The effectiveness of green belts differs depending on location and country. They can often be eroded by urban rural fringe uses and sometimes, development 'jumps' over the green belt area, resulting in the creation of "satellite towns" which, although separated from the city by green belt, function more like suburbs than independent communities.


In the 7th century, Muhammad established a green belt around Medina. He did this by prohibiting any further removal of trees in a 12-mile long strip around the city. [1] In 1580 Elizabeth I of England banned new building in a 3-mile wide belt around the City of London in an attempt to stop the spread of plague. However, this was not widely enforced and it was possible to buy dispensations which reduced the effectiveness of the proclamation. [2]

In modern times, the term emerged from continental Europe where broad boulevards were increasingly used to separate new development from the centre of historic towns; most notably the Ringstraße in Vienna. Green belt policy was then pioneered in the United Kingdom confronted with ongoing rural flight. Various proposals were put forward from 1890 onwards but the first to garner widespread support was put forward by the London Society in its "Development Plan of Greater London" 1919. Alongside the CPRE they lobbied for a continuous belt (of up to two miles wide) to prevent urban sprawl, beyond which new development could occur.

There are fourteen green belt areas in the UK covering 16,716 km² or 13% of England, and 164 km² of Scotland; for a detailed discussion of these, see Green belt (UK). Other notable examples are the Ottawa Greenbelt and Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt [3] in Ontario, Canada. Ottawa's 20,350-hectare (78.6 sq mi) instance is managed by the National Capital Commission (NCC). [4] The more general term in the United States is green space or greenspace, which may be a very small area such as a park.

The dynamic Adelaide Park Lands, measuring approximately 7.6 km² surround, unbroken, the city centre of Adelaide. On the fringe of the eastern suburbs, an expansive natural green belt in the Adelaide Hills acts as a growth boundary for Adelaide and cools the city in the hottest months.

The concept of "green belt" has evolved in recent years to encompass not only "Greenspace" but also "Greenstructure" which comprises all urban and peri-urban greenspaces, an important aspect of sustainable development in the 21st century. The European Commission's COST Action C11 (COST – European Cooperation in Science and Technology) is undertaking "Case studies in Greenstructure Planning" involving 15 European countries.

An act of the Swedish parliament from 1994 has declared a series of parks in Stockholm and the adjacent municipality of Solna to its north a "national city park" called Royal National City Park.


House prices

When paired with a city which is economically prospering, homes in a green belt may have been motivated by or result in considerable premiums. They may also be more economically resilient as popular among the retired and less attractive for short-term renting of modest homes. [5] Where in the city itself demand exceeds supply in housing, green belt homes compete directly with much city housing wherever such green belt homes are well-connected to the city. [5] Further, they in all cases attract a future-guaranteed premium for protection of their views, recreational space and for the preservation/conservation value itself. [5] Most also benefit from higher rates of urban gardening and farming, particularly when done in a community setting, which have positive effects on nutrition, fitness, self-esteem, and happiness, providing a benefit for both physical and mental health, in all cases easily provided or accessed in a green belt. [6] Government planners also seek to protect the green belt as its local farmers are engaged in peri-urban agriculture which augments carbon sequestration, reduces the urban heat island effect, and provides a habitat for organisms. [7] Peri-urban agriculture may also help recycle urban greywater and other products of wastewater, helping to conserve water and reduce waste. [8]

The housing market contrasts with more uncertainty and economic liberalism inside and immediately outside of the belt: [5] green belt homes have by definition nearby protected landscapes. [5] Local residents in affluent parts of a green belt, as in parts of the city, can be assured of preserving any localized bourgeois status quo present and so assuming the green belt is not from the outset an area of more social housing proportionately than the city, it naturally tends toward greater economic wealth. In a protracted housing shortage, reduction of the green belt is one of the possible solutions. All such solutions may be resisted however by private landlords who profit from a scarcity of housing, for example by lobbying to restrain new housing across the city. The stated motivation and benefits of the green belt might be well-intentioned (public health, social gardening and agriculture, environment), but inadequately realised relative to other solutions.

Inherently partial critics include Mark Pennington and the economics-heavy think tanks such as the Institute of Economic Affairs who would see a reduction in many green belts. Such studies focus on widely inherent limitations of green belts. In most examples only a small fraction of the population uses the green belt for leisure purposes. The IEA study claims that a green belt is not strongly causally linked to clean air and water. Rather, they view the ultimate result of the decision to green-belt a city as one to prevent housing demand within the zone to be met with supply, [9] thus exacerbating high housing prices and stifling competitive forces in general.

Increasing urban sprawl

Another area of criticism comes from the fact that, since a green belt does not extend indefinitely outside a city, it spurs the growth of areas much further away from the city core than if it had not existed, thereby actually increasing urban sprawl. [10] Examples commonly cited are the Ottawa suburbs of Kanata and Orleans, both of which are outside the city's green belt, and are currently undergoing explosive growth (see Greenbelt (Ottawa)). This leads to other problems, as residents of these areas have a longer commute to work places in the city and worse access to public transport. It also means people have to commute through the green belt, an area not designed to cope with high levels of transportation. Not only is the merit of a green belt subverted, but the green belt may heighten the problem and make the city unsustainable.

There are many examples whereby the actual effect of green belts is to act as a land reserve for future freeways and other highways. Examples include sections of Ontario Highway 407 north of Toronto and the Hunt Club Road and Richmond Road south of Ottawa. Whether they are originally planned as such, or the result of a newer administration taking advantage of land that was left available by its predecessors is debatable.

United Kingdom

Green belts were established in England from 1955 to simply prevent the physical growth of large built-up areas; to prevent neighbouring cities and towns from merging. [11] In the UK, green belt around the major conurbations has been criticized as one of the main protectionist bars to building housing, the others being other planning restrictions (Local Plans and restrictive covenants) and developers' land banking. Local Plans and land banking are to be relaxed for home building in the 2015-2030 period by law and the green belt will be reduced by some local authorities as each local authority must now consider it among the available shortlisted options in drawing development plans to meet higher housing targets. Critics argue that the green belts defeat their stated objective of saving the countryside and open spaces. Such criticism falls short when considering the other, broader benefits such as peri-urban agriculture which includes gardening and carries many benefits, especially to the retired. It also ignores the strategic aims of the Attlee Ministry in 1946, just as in France, of shifting capital away from the capital city (addressing regional disparity) and avoiding intra-urban gridlock. The restrictions of the Green Belt were particularly in the 1940s-1980s mitigated with planned, government-supported, new towns under the New Towns Act 1946 and New Towns Act 1981. These saw establishment beyond the green belts of new homes, infrastructure, businesses and other facilities. Without large scale sustainable development, infill development sees urban green space lost. A chronic housing shortage with inadequate new settlements and/or extension of those outside of the green belt and/or no green belt reduction has seen many brownfield sites, often well-suited to industry and commerce, lost in existing conurbations. [12]

Notable examples




The central core of Ottawa, located in the middle of the map, is surrounded by the Ottawa Greenbelt Ottawagreenbelt.PNG
The central core of Ottawa, located in the middle of the map, is surrounded by the Ottawa Greenbelt

Dominican Republic



Rennes Green Belt Rennes.jpg
Rennes Green Belt

United Kingdom

Green belts in England, with Metropolitan Green Belt outlined in red The Metropolitan Green Belt among the green belts of England.svg
Green belts in England, with Metropolitan Green Belt outlined in red

New Zealand

Dunedin Town Belt flanks the hills above the central city Dunedin City and Town Belt.png
Dunedin Town Belt flanks the hills above the central city

In New Zealand, the term Town Belt is most commonly used for an urban green belt.


South Korea

United States

See also

Related Research Articles

Smart growth

Smart growth is an urban planning and transportation theory that concentrates growth in compact walkable urban centers to avoid sprawl. It also advocates compact, transit-oriented, walkable, bicycle-friendly land use, including neighborhood schools, complete streets, and mixed-use development with a range of housing choices. The term "smart growth" is particularly used in North America. In Europe and particularly the UK, the terms "compact city", "urban densification" or "urban intensification" have often been used to describe similar concepts, which have influenced government planning policies in the UK, the Netherlands and several other European countries.

An urban growth boundary, or UGB, is a regional boundary, set in an attempt to control urban sprawl by, in its simplest form, mandating that the area inside the boundary be used for urban development and the area outside be preserved in its natural state or used for agriculture. Legislating for an "urban growth boundary" is one way, among many others, of managing the major challenges posed by unplanned urban growth and the encroachment of cities upon agricultural and rural land.

Green belt (United Kingdom) British urban planning policy to maintain countryside around cities

In British town planning, the green belt is a policy for controlling urban growth. The idea is for a ring of countryside where urbanisation will be resisted for the foreseeable future, maintaining an area where agriculture, forestry and outdoor leisure can be expected to prevail. The fundamental aim of green belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open, and consequently the most important attribute of green belts is their openness.

Green belt or greenbelt is an area of protected open space around an urban area.

National Capital Commission

The National Capital Commission is the Crown corporation responsible for development, urban planning, and conservation in Canada's Capital Region, including administering most lands and buildings owned by the Government of Canada in the region.

Greenbelt (Ottawa)

The Greenbelt is a 203.5-square-kilometre (78.6 sq mi) protected green belt traversing Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. It includes green space, forests, farms, and wetlands from Shirleys Bay in the west and to Green's Creek in the east. The National Capital Commission (NCC) owns and manages 149.5 square kilometres (57.7 sq mi), and the rest is held by other federal government departments and private interests. Real estate development within the Greenbelt is strictly controlled.

Urban sprawl Expansion of auto-oriented, low-density development in suburbs

Urban sprawl is the unrestricted growth in many urban areas of housing, commercial development, and roads over large expanses of land, with little concern for urban planning. In addition to describing a special form of urbanization, the term also relates to the social and environmental consequences associated with this development. Since the advent of the industrial era, sprawl has entailed no direct disadvantages, such as the loss of protection from medieval city walls. However, its disadvantages and costs include increased travel time, transport costs, pollution, and destruction of countryside. The cost of building the infrastructure needed for new developments is hardly ever recouped through property taxes, amounting to a huge subsidy for the developers and new residents at the expense of existing property taxpayers. In Continental Europe, the term peri-urbanisation is often used to denote similar dynamics and phenomena, but the term urban sprawl is currently being used by the European Environment Agency. There is widespread disagreement about what constitutes sprawl and how to quantify it. For example, some commentators measure sprawl only with the average number of residential units per acre in a given area, but others associate it with decentralization, discontinuity, segregation of uses, and so forth.

Garden city movement Urban planning movement

The garden city movement is a method of urban planning in which self-contained communities are surrounded by "greenbelts", containing proportionate areas of residences, industry, and agriculture. The idea was initiated in 1898 by Ebenezer Howard in the United Kingdom and aims to capture the primary benefits of a countryside environment and a city environment while avoiding the disadvantages presented by both. Howard was knighted in 1927. During his lifetime Letchworth, Brentham Garden Suburb and Welwyn Garden City were built in or near London according to Howard’s concept and many other garden cities inspired by his model have since been built all over the world.

Sheffield is the most geographically diverse city in England. Lying in the eastern foothills of the Pennines, the city nestles in a natural amphitheatre created by several hills and the confluence of five rivers: Don, Sheaf, Rivelin, Loxley and Porter. As such, much of the city is built on hillsides, with views into the city centre or out to the countryside. The city is roughly one third urban, one third rural and one third in the Peak District. At its lowest point the city stands just 29 metres above sea level at Blackburn Meadows on the Rotherham border, rising up to over 500 m in some parts of the city to a peak of 548m at High Stones on the Derbyshire border; however, 89% of the housing in the city is between 100 and 200 metres above sea level. Over 95% of the population resides in the main urban area.

Greenbelt (Golden Horseshoe)

The Greenbelt is a permanently protected area of green space, farmland, forests, wetlands, and watersheds, located in Southern Ontario, Canada. It surrounds a significant portion of Canada's most populated and fastest-growing area, the Golden Horseshoe.

Hunt Club Neighbourhood in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Hunt Club is a community in River Ward, in the south end of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The area is named after the prestigious Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club, which has been part of the area since 1876. Hunt Club Road and many local businesses were also named after the golf course.

Greenbelt Alliance is a non-profit land conservation and urban planning organization that has worked in California's nine-county San Francisco Bay Area since 1958.

Architecture of Ottawa

The architecture of Ottawa is most marked by the city's role as the national capital of Canada. This gives the city a number of monumental structures designed to represent the federal government and the nation. It also means that as a city dominated by government bureaucrats, much of its architecture tends to be formalistic and functional. However, the city is also marked by Romantic and Picturesque styles of architecture such as the Parliament Building's Gothic Revival architecture.

The General Report on the Plan for the National Capital (1946–1950), or Gréber Plan, was a major urban plan developed for Canada's National Capital Region in 1950 by Jacques Gréber, commissioned by the Federal District Commission of Ottawa, Ontario.

Greenbelt Historic District United States historic place

The Greenbelt Historic District is a national historic district located in Greenbelt, Prince George's County, Maryland, United States. The district preserves the center of one of the few examples of the Garden city movement in the United States. With its sister cities of Greenhills, Ohio and Greendale, Wisconsin, Greenbelt was intended to be a "new town" that would start with a clean slate to do away with problems of urbanism in favor of a suburban ideal. Along with the never-commenced town of Greenbrook, New Jersey, the new towns were part of the New Deal public works programs.

Metropolitan Green Belt

The Metropolitan Green Belt is a statutory green belt around London, England. It comprises parts of Greater London and the six adjoining "home counties", parts of two of the three districts of the county of Bedfordshire and a small area in Copthorne, Sussex. As of 2017/18, Government statistics show the planning designation covered 513,860 hectares of land.

Commuter town Urban community that is primarily residential, from which most of the workforce commutes out

A commuter town is a populated area that is primarily residential, rather than commercial or industrial. People who live in commuter towns usually work in other places. Routine travel from home to work and then from work to home is called commuting, which is where the term comes from.

The Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, 2006 is a regional growth management policy for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) area of southern Ontario, Canada. Introduced under the Places to Grow Act in 2005, the Plan was approved by the Lieutenant Governor in Council and enacted on June 16, 2006. Administered by the Ontario Ministry of Infrastructure (MOI), the plan identifies density and intensification targets, urban growth centres, strategic employment areas, and settlement area restrictions designed to mitigate negative environmental, economic and human health impacts associated with sprawling, uncoordinated growth in the region.

South and West Yorkshire Green Belt The green belt areas of South and West Yorkshire, England

The South and West Yorkshire Green Belt is a green belt environmental and planning policy that regulates the rural space within the Yorkshire and the Humber region of England. It is contained within the counties of South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire, North Yorkshire, and Derbyshire. Essentially, its primary function is to more rigorously manage development around the cities, towns and villages in the large West Yorkshire Urban Area, the Sheffield urban area, and surrounding towns of Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham, as well as other nearby locations, in order to discourage urban sprawl and further convergence between these. It is managed by local planning authorities on guidance from central government.

Avon Green Belt

The Avon Green Belt, also known as the Bristol and Bath Green Belt, is a non-statutory green belt environmental and planning policy that regulates urban expansion and development in the countryside surrounding the cities of Bristol and Bath in the South West region of England. It covers areas in Bristol, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset, Bath and North East Somerset, Mendip, and Wiltshire. Essentially, the function of the green belt is to limit urban sprawl and maintain the open character of areas around the Bristol and Bath built up areas, and nearby towns and villages. The policy is implemented by local planning authorities on the basis of guidance from central government.


Commons-logo.svg Media related to Green belts at Wikimedia Commons

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  2. Halliday, Stephen (2004). Underground to Everywhere. Sutton Publishing Limited. p. 118. ISBN   978-0-7509-3843-3.
  3. "Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation".
  4. National Capital Commission. "National Capital Commission :: The National Capital Greenbelt :: History and Culture." National Capital Commission – Commission De La Capitale Nationale (NCC-CCN). 07 Dec. 2007. NCC-CCN. Accessed 28 June 2008, unavailable February, 2013.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Tim Harford (2005). The Undercover Economist . Little, Brown. ISBN   0345494016.
  6. Sarah Wakefield, Fiona Yeudall, Carolin Taron, Jennifer Reynolds, Ana Skinner, "Growing urban health: Community gardening in South-East Toronto" Health Promotion International, 2007
  7. Hoi-Fei Mok, Virginia G. Williamson, James R. Grove, Kristal Burry, S. Fiona Barker, Andrew J. Hamilton,"Strawberry fields forever? Urban agriculture in developed countries: a review" Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 2013
  8. Hoi-Fei Mok, Virginia G. Williamson, James R. Grove, Kristal Burry, S. Fiona Barker, Andrew J. Hamilton, "Strawberry fields forever? Urban agriculture in developed countries: a review" Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 2013
  9. Mark Pennington (18 March 2002). "Liberating the Land: The Case for Private Land-Use Planning". Institute of Economic Affairs. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
  10. How Much Open Space is Enough?" St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN) – April 22, 2007 – A1 MAIN
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  12. Political Barriers To Housebuilding In Britain: A Critical Case Study Of Protectionism & Its Industrial-Commercial Effects, Industrial Systems Research/ Google Books, revised electronic edition 2013. Chapter two: "Greenbelt Barriers To Urban Expansion", Ebook ISBN   9780906321645
  13. Canada’s first Greenbelt Fixing Boundaries: An International Review Of Greenbelt Boundaries. p. 27. Published jointly by Greg MacDonald, Ryerson University.
  14. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-01-06. Retrieved 2009-08-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. Grupo Terra Dominicana: Cinturón Verde. (2004-02-23). Retrieved on 2013-12-06.
  16. "مساحت کمربند سبز تهران به بیش از ۳۹ هزار هکتار رسید". January 2017.
  17. "طرح کمربند سبز تهران باید تکمیل شود".
  18. Gray, Nolan (16 May 2019). "America's First Greenbelt May Be in Jeopardy". CityLab . Retrieved 16 May 2019.