Call for review of how greenbelt land is used

Natural England chief executive Dr Helen Phillips has called for a review of the “sanctity” of greenbelt land to ensure policies are appropriate for modern times.

In her speech marking the organisation’s first anniversary, Phillips said greenbelt land was not designed to deal with today’s complex environmental challenges, although it had achieved the goal of constraining urban sprawl. “But the consequence of this is that development tends to leapfrog over the greenbelt and land in more vulnerable parts of the environment.” The greenbelt needed to be reviewed and more effort committed to ensuring it was something that added “value”. Phillips said she was not “waving the white flag to developers” and did not want to see the greenbelt abolished, but hoped to generate debate about how it could be used better to benefit people and the environment, rather than acting as a barrier between the two. She said greater innovation and imagination was needed when creating developments and there was a need to put green space at the heart of new communities. “Green infrastructure” needed to be embedded in planning, urban design and government policy. Phillips said developers would not get away with not providing water systems so it should not be acceptable to leave out green spaces.

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