Green Belt

The green belt policy in the UK is one of the topics studied in GCSE Geography. This quiz looks at some of the advantages of the policy - preventing urban sprawl for example - and disadvantages - such as a growth in demand for land leading to a rise in urban house prices.

A green belt is a distinct area of undeveloped land surrounding specific cities, with the aim of preventing urban sprawl. The Metropolitan Green Belt surrounding London was the first to be proposed in 1935. There are five stated purposes of green belts:

  1. To prevent the unrestricted sprawl of large built up areas.
  2. To prevent neighbouring towns and cities merging into one another.
  3. To safeguard the countryside from encroachment.
  4. To preserve the setting and special character of historic towns.
  5. To assist in urban regeneration by encouraging the use of brownfield sites.
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Stifling the growth of urban areas by restricting development on green belts has lead to brownfield sites becoming a viable alternative for developers looking for a place to build. This in turn reduces the amount of urban decay and promotes urban renewal.

Some people refer to green belts as 'nooses strangling the towns and cities within'. Settlements in the South are finding that the lack of brownfield sites and the restriction placed on expansion by green belts, are together driving up property prices, preventing the next generation from buying homes in the area and forcing them to move away. Commuters may also have a longer journey because of green belts and communities located in the green belt zone may struggle to have planning permission granted for essential services. It could be argued that rising property prices will force people to look at alternatives, including living in cheaper locations in the North with good commuter links to the South. For example, Crewe, in Cheshire, is being proposed as a commuter location if it gets a station on the new high-speed railway. We may see the growth of other commuter towns which are not encircled by a green belt as yet.

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  1. How do green belts help air quality in the UK?
    12% of UK green belt land is forested. The same number of properties and industry are still required, they will just be built elsewhere rather than in the green belt
  2. Other than preventing urban sprawl, green belt also provides numerous advantages to urban residents. Which of the following is not an advantage of green belt to urban residents?
    These are also advantages to the rural residents. The close proximity of the urban area provides a market for their goods and services
  3. As housing prices rise in cities trapped by green belt, what might happen to the local population?
    The loss of the younger members of the population, who are often the bulk of the workforce, leads to businesses struggling to find staff. This in turn can prevent business expansion, or even force businesses to move out of the area
  4. Why are the bulk of the green belt areas located around London, Birmingham and along the M62 corridor?
    When the original legislation came in it was focused on England and later spread to Scotland and Wales. The largest cities in England were ringed by green belt
  5. Why might green belts cause a loss of green spaces and wildlife?
    Gardens and yards can provide vital havens for animals. Flowers can provide a food source for urban bees, whilst animals such as hedgehogs, as well as pond dwellers such as frogs, thrive in urban gardens. These are just as important as the greenbelt for many species - and even ecosystems
  6. What percentage of land area is green belt in England alone?
    13% may not seem like much, but added to the areas of national parks, protected areas and Sites of Special Scientific Interest, it is clear that a large amount of the countryside is protected
  7. Which of the following is not actively encouraged in a green belt zone?
    Whilst essential services and agricultural buildings can be built in the green belt, all other developments are discouraged - although some may be granted in specific situations
  8. What does green belt do that has a positive impact for nearby rural communities?
    Whilst the green belt has an overall positive impact, for individuals the disadvantages might be an immediate problem
  9. Which of the following is not a way that green belt can help offset the problems of climate change?
    Added to these, green belt land will help species have the space to adapt to climate change, provide local food and leisure opportunities and encourage the use of smaller, more energy efficient homes within the urban area
  10. Why have some developments been granted planning permission on green belt land?
    The lack of housing, especially in the South, has been described as a housing crisis. With high costs for many brownfield sites, some developers see building on green belt as being the only viable option

Author: Ruth M

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