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Bucks Greenbelt Growth?

Christa McDermott
By Christa McDermott
26th February 2024

Greenbelt is defined by an area of open land around a city, on which building is restricted.


Recently, an article in the planner’s professional magazine, “Planning”, claimed that England’s green belt is actually getting bigger (Alex King article in Planning, November 2023). Unfortunately this conclusion was based on the government’s official National Statistics dataset, which is in turn based on the local government’s Local Plans. But those statistics only tell half the story. While the main boundaries of green belts may have increased in a few very small cases, this does not consider the loss of green belt land within the boundary, as a result of individual planning applications. There are a great many, mostly small but often significant, parcels of land within the overall boundary that have been lost to development.

Our researcher, Klara, looked into the situation in Buckinghamshire. She looked at planning applications submitted during the last 5 years for sites within the green belt as well as the proposed local plans for the former districts of Wycombe, Chiltern and South Bucks (where almost all of the green belt in Bucks lies).

She found that, since 2018 there are some 372 Hectares of green belt land that have either been lost, or are under threat of future loss. The accompanying map shows the main green belt sites already lost or under threat. But that also does not include the damage done within the green belt boundary by national infrastructure projects, because these are outside the scope of the Council’s Local Plans. Of course, in Buckinghamshire, by far the worst culprit here is HS2. Although they have promised to reinstate land after the construction is finished, they are already trying to get out of that commitment and it doesn’t take into account the loss of ancient woodlands that have taken centuries to build up a huge cache of biodiversity. New trees will take another few centuries to deliver the same benefits and that may be too late. So when someone tries to tell you that the green belt is actually expanding, no it’s not. It’s being lost incrementally and, if nothing changes, inexorably. For a closer look at the map above please click here.