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Why green is good

Reproduced by kind permission of the Helensurgh Advertiser which published this article in its edition of 19th August, 2010.

To celebrate its twentieth anniversary, the Helensburgh Green Belt Group is holding an exhibition in the Library and publishing a commemorative edition of its newsletter ‘Greenery’.

These will be formally launched today by Provost Billy Petrie. It was Provost Petrie who, back in 1990, first proposed that the Green Belt Group should be set up.

In its two decades, the Green Belt Group has aimed to support and to improve our green belt.

At local level, the Green Belt Group has worked with other community organisations and has made submissions to Argyll and Bute Council, as well as assessing planning applications affecting the green belt. It played a key part in proposing that the new Hermitage Academy should be located in the green belt.

It has sought to enhance the countryside around Helensburgh with paths and community woodlands, as well as to protect it.

It also contributed to the national report ‘The Future of Green Belts in Scotland’. It has been consulted by the Scottish Government, along with similar groups.

Green Belt Group chairman, Alastair Macbeth, stated ‘It’s been said that green belts are well known but insufficiently understood. That’s why we’ve set up our exhibition in the Helensburgh Library until the end of the month and prepared a special edition of our newsletter which poses the question Why Green Belts?

BREATHING SPACE: The green belt contributes to natural heritage, recreation, and much more.

‘Perhaps the biggest misconception is the belief that green belts are only about countryside. They are not. They primarily exist for the benefit of towns.

‘All green belts are around or in towns. This year the new Scottish Planning Policy contained an important section on green belts. It states that green belts protect and enhance the quality of towns and their landscape settings, direct growth to the most appropriate locations, help to regenerate degraded parts of towns and provide access to open space.

‘Our anniversary is an opportunity to provide information and to review our own way of working.’

The Group’s newsletters are available in public places such as the Library, Victoria Halls, the Information Centre, Scotcourt House, the Medical Centre and other town centre locations. It will also go on the website www.hgbg.org.uk

The Group has always taken the view that cooperation is better than confrontation whenever possible. Alastair says, ‘ We have appreciated our links with the Council and other organisations. But we also follow important principles which guide us and which we outline in our exhibition and newsletter. These include trying to be as well informed as we can, basing our work on evidence and taking a long term view of issues affecting the town and its green belt.’

And what of the future? Consultants Ironside Farrar have just completed a review of the green belt. It is advice, but not yet policy. It recommends that Helensburgh’s green belt should be expanded northwards to meet the National Park boundary, but that some remoter parts might be given lesser protective designations such as Sensitive Countryside.

As Alastair says, ‘Looking into the future is especially difficult because of the recession. We are in an area of falling population, unlike the east of Scotland, and that should reduce pressure for outward expansion. More houses in the ‘affordable’ category are needed, but Councillor Freeman’s timely comments in last week’s Advertiser show the scale of the problems facing the Council. Otherwise Helensburgh seems generally to be a successful residential town, though it has some degraded and underused in-town sites.

‘The green belt serves its people by contributing to recreation, health, tourism, natural heritage, landscape, education, sustainability, agriculture and enterprise as well as the key purposes laid down by the Scottish Government. It needs to be valued and we hope that our exhibition in the Library and special newsletter will be of interest to the residents of Helensburgh.’

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