The Landscape Guide

Colour Plans, Green Belts, Green Towns, Greenways, Minerals, Public Open Space, Sustainability, Urban Design, Village Envelopes

Green Belts

Up to 1,000 square miles of virgin British countryside is to be bulldozed to make way for the government's planned 4.4 m new homes, leaked figures reveal. Jonathan leake Sunday Times 18.1.1998.

Bulldozing virgins?

One does speak of virgin forest being chainsawed. But when a square mile of farmland has lain on its back being ploughed to dust for centuries, the term seems inappropriate. If the poor whore has also received lashings of EU-subsidised fertiliser and herbicide, one might prefer to speak of 'reclamation for housing'. Landscape architects can plan housing estates with better ecological and visual characteristics than barren fields. Homes can have beauty, porous paving, vegetated roofs and abundant wildlife. Instead of mindlessly 'defending' Green Belts, as though they were chastity belts, we should commission assessments to guide us in defending such landscape quality as exists and in making plans to create it elsewhere.

What the green belt really needs

A landscape assessment, to determine the different types of quality which it possess, followed by:

  1. A plan for public goods
  2. A plan for common rights
  3. A rational plan for footpaths and public access
  4. A plan for scenic improvement
  5. A plan for greenways
  6. A plan for habitat creation
  7. A plan for new settlements
  8. A recognition of the South East Edge City (formerly known as London)
  9. A total redirection of agricultural subsidies
  10. A reasonable policy to compensate for compulsory purchase and levy a tax on planning permissions.


  1. The first question to ask is ‘Will any new land be allocated to urbanisation?’.
  2. If you answer ‘No’, then there is no need for 'green' ‘belts’ around towns.
  3. If the answer is ‘Yes’, we have to ask ‘Which land should be so allocated?’
  4. My answer is ‘It is good policy not to build on ‘green’ land with high landscape value, but you won’t find this land in belts. Most probably it will be what landscape ecologists describe as patches and corridors [belts are man-made]:
  • Patches: mountains, lakes, woods
  • Corridors: ridges, valleys, shores

So, if you are going to build outside existing towns the questions to ask are:

Where to build? [on the land with low existing quality]

How to build? [with vegetated roofs, porous pavements and no highway design criteria]


Who gets the money? [allow landowners to double their money and then give the rest to the public] {if land prices rise from £3,000/acre to £600,000/acre that would be an excessive 200-fold}

I  would like to see a dull flat area being taken for development, then:

  • build a reservoir
  • re-shape the land
  • surround it with a New Town [how’s that for a New Labour policy?]
  • give them green roofs and porous pavements
  • repeal all the regulations (euphemistically called ‘design criteria’) for road building

Tom Turner January 1998