Green Belt

What is it ?

The Scottish Green Belts Alliance (of which HGBG is a founder member) defined a Green Belt as “designated open land which is around, beside or in an urban area and for which there is a presumption against development except for specified, mostly rural, uses”.

Green Belt is a Scottish Government land-use designation to be applied in local authorities’ development plans for the purposes laid down in the 2010 Scottish Planning Policy (SPP), paragraphs 159 – 164.

What do paragraphs 159 – 164 of the new SPP say?

Paragraph 159 of the SPP gives the purposes of Green Belts which are to :

  • direct planned growth to the most appropriate locations and support regeneration,
  • protect and enhance the quality, character, landscape setting and identity of towns and cities, and
  • protect and give access to open space within and around towns and cities.

It also says that Green Belt designation should provide clarity and certainty on where development will and will not take place. The relevance of Green Belts to settlements is important. They do not exist to protect natural heritage which has other designations.

The other important paragraph is 163 which lists the types of development which ARE suitable in a Green Belt, such as :

  • associated with agriculture,
  • woodland and forestry, including community woodlands,
  • horticulture, including market gardening and directly connected retailing,
  • recreational uses that are compatible with an agricultural or natural setting, and
  • essential infrastructure such as electronic communications infrastructure and electricity grid connections.

Development in a Green Belt should be of high quality design and suitable scale. It says that cumulative erosion of a Green Belt’s integrity through lots of individual planning permissions should be avoided.

The other three paragraphs explain different shapes of Green Belts, preferred types of boundary and other administrative aspects. The setting of Green Belt boundaries in the development plan should be for the long term.

We have the following observations about the current SPP.

  • HGBG gives broad support to the main thrust of the SPP paragraphs 159-164 and welcomes its recognition of the importance of Green Belts.
  • HGBG supports the SPP’s requirement for long term greater certainty for Green Belts.
  • HGBG supports the concept of a rigorous review before determining Green Belt boundaries, but considers that local community groups should be engaged in the review process.
  • The SPP gives as appropriate uses of Green Belt land as agricultural, woodlands, horticulture and recreational uses compatible with agriculture or a natural setting. We support these.
  • A valuable feature of Green Belts is that they serve a multiplicity of purposes, but the SPP’s section on purposes is too limited.
  • We feel that clearer definitions of key terms are needed. We supported the definition of “Green Belt” provided by the Scottish Green Belts Alliance. We consider that a distinction between public “involvement” and “consultation” is needed.
  • Green Belt circumstances are different in different parts of Scotland . In particular, there is population growth in the east but decrease in the west, giving contrasting Green Belt issues. The SPP should have paid more attention to diversity.
  • There could have been greater encouragement to create new Green Belts.
  • Town fringes are especially sensitive. We feel that the SPP does not sufficiently address the issue of growth elsewhere, e.g. Green Haloes.
  • HGBG considers that ribbon development should be avoided.
  • Green Belts are countryside and they serve countryside purposes as well as urban purposes and that should be made explicit. However, the SPP seems to us to retain an urban bias.

Green Belt Review in the Helensburgh corridor (Shandon to Cardross)

Argyll and Bute Council commissioned a “Green Belt Landscape Review” for the whole Green Belt from Shandon to Cardross. HGBG was unhappy about the procedure by which officials in Lochgilphead commissioned a landscape review by consultants in Edinburgh without any input by the local communities affected. The European Landscape Convention insists that local input is essential to landscape reviews and we agree. While the exclusion of developers and others who have a financial interest could be understood, the exclusion of local community groups such as HGBG seemed inappropriate.

The Green Belt Landscape Review was made public in 2010. Generally it is thorough and HGBG supports most of its conclusions. However, consultation with local groups such as HGBG would have made it better. Aspects of concern, in our opinion, are a confusion of land designations to the north of Helensburgh and the failure to recommend extending the Green Belt up to the National Park boundary across all land north of Helensburgh and Rhu.

Related websites

Scottish Executive, Publications
Scottish Green Belts Alliance