Green Belt: Compact City

A key aim for CPRE London and the CPRE family is to maintain Green Belt protections which are designed to halt urban sprawl.

Building out into Green Belt is the worst possible option for London. It is a lose-lose scenario. We lose our countryside and we create a high-carbon, car-dependent, unhealthy city. But London’s Green Belt is currently facing unprecedented threats from boroughs intent on removing green belt designations to accommodate development rather than using the plentiful brownfield sites available.

Urban sprawl is low-density development, outside city boundaries, unable to support local buses, jobs, shops and services. It relies on cars and correlates with increased energy use, pollution & traffic congestion. It increases transport costs & social isolation, and leads to loss of countryside, destruction of agricultural land & wildlife habitat and the creation of high-carbon, inefficient towns and cities.

We advocate instead for ‘compact, efficient cities’ with strong Green Belt protections, which are low-carbon, where people get around by public transport, walking and cycling and can live close to jobs and amenities, and where parks and green spaces are protected for health, recreation, sport and nature. We create compact cities by using land efficiently, recycling sites in need of regeneration, using space better and moving away from car-use which is space-inefficient and has other unwelcome impacts like air pollution and noise.

What are we doing to ensure London is built as a compact city with strong Green Belt protection?

  1. We campaign to save London’s Green Belt, working with local campaigners. Currently Hounslow and Enfield councils are looking at removing Green Belt designation from large areas of London’s countryside to make way for development, despite plentiful availability of brownfield land. We also demonstrate why London’s Green Belt is Our Climate Safety Belt. And beyond the GLA borders (recognising that sprawl in London’s Green Belt will have a huge negative impact on London) we work with the London Green Belt Council and other CPRE branches to save green fields from development.
  2. We advocate for Compact Cities, showing why “To save the countryside we have to save our cities”. We point to the social and environmental down-sides of low-density development; seek to allay fears about higher density development, showing it saves space, is not the same as high rise (Double the Density, Halve the Land Needed) and can provide significant benefits to communities (10 reasons higher density living is good for communities).
  3. Our Space to Build work demonstrates why we don’t need to build on Green Belt and shows there is plenty of brownfield land in London to accommodate development: part of our work involves demonstrating where there is space to build.
  4. And through our Healthy Streets work we promote sustainable transport which is the key to building a compact city. We have coordinated London’s Healthy Streets Scorecard coalition since 2019. We have also shown why building car-dependent development outside the GLA borders, in London’s Green Belt, will mean we end up Driving in Circles with 5 million extra car journeys per week.