COMMENT: Green belt could help quieten the nimbies

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The perception of the UK as a ‘green and pleasant land’ is ingrained in our national identity. So it is not surprising that thousands of people have signed a petition backing the Campaign for Rural England’s request for a green belt in Hampshire to prevent ‘urban sprawl’ between Hampshire’s cities, towns and villages.  

A CPRE report says the county’s current policy of creating ‘strategic gaps’ to protect areas of green space is not working, 

Chief executive Charlee Bennett said: ‘It has been previously argued by local authorities in South Hampshire that the gaps provided adequate safeguards.

‘However, the report has highlighted the vulnerability of these areas as the ‘gap’ status seems to offer limited protection, citing many examples within South Hampshire when the development has gone ahead in these areas, nibbling away at the gaps, with some now being only metres wide.

Introduced through the Town and Country Planning Act of 1947, green belts were intended to protect the countryside through controlling the post-war urban sprawl of towns and cities. For those living in larger cities, green belt land is the first encounter with the countryside – the beginning of wider horizons, fresher air and taller, greener trees. For rural towns and villages that are located within the green belt, it defines settlement boundaries and fosters identity.

But with a growing population and ever-increasing demand for housing, is a green belt an attainable goal?

The 13,500 people backing the CPRE’s ambition clearly think so.

Maybe the time has come to adopt a green belt to ensure every inch of available space in our towns and cities, including many derelict buildings, vacant lots or dare we say, windswept town centres with boarded-up shops are used before we start building new homes in green fields? 

If people really want to protect this green and pleasant land, a green belt for Hampshire might focus the minds and change the ‘nimby’ mindset of those who oppose development at all costs.