The Greenbelt is a strip of land that encircles Greater London. It is made up of parkland, farmland and recreation grounds. Any proposed building on or development of this land is carefully monitored. There are Greenbelts in various parts of the United Kingdom. The one around London covers approximately 486,000 hectares (1.2 million acres).
Areas of Greenbelt land ensure that:
- the environment and countryside are protected;
- those living in cities have easy access to countryside; and
- the unique characters of rural communities are preserved.
There is a presumption against building on or developing Greenbelt land.
The first Greenbelt scheme was created by the Home Counties Greenbelt Act of 1938 and was introduced to control metropolitan growth around London. Pressure to create and preserve areas of countryside had come from associations such as the Garden Cities Movement.
After the destruction of London during the Second World War, town planners could put into effect Sir Patrick Abercrombie's recommendations in the Greater London Plan of 1944. All development rights were nationalised, the surrounding Greenbelt area was carefully defined to stop the spread of London, and new towns outside the area were designed and established.
In 1955 the Ministry of Housing Duncan Sandys wrote a government circular inviting local authorities across the country to consider establishing Greenbelts around towns and cities to help protect the surrounding countryside against 'urban sprawl'.
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