If we have to release Green Belt, could a new design approach protect further sprawl?

The pressure to release the green belt is at an all time high and it feels almost like as the pressure rises there will be a release in green belt land for no other reason than new homes must be built. Whether or not you believe the green belt should be released, assume that tomorrow your favourite piece of green belt was released for house building. Is there an opportunity to rethink the design of new homes to ensure the green belt release is a positive benefit not a blight on the existing homes and community that adjoin the green belt.

By increasing the density, removing roads footpaths it is possible to develop viewing corridors looking out towards the surrounding green belt.

By increasing the density, removing roads footpaths it is possible to develop viewing corridors looking out towards the surrounding green belt.

I believe there are ways to design ‘a long range view from each dwelling’ into a scheme and that many designers would relish the chance, if developers can be persuaded to look at what homes might need in the future, not what simply sold last week. That design led approach might produce a more sympathetic solution, such the new development will become a place where open views can still be enjoyed and the sense of unique, peaceful and tranquil setting , blends into the green belt.

Would this ease the resistance to the release of the green belt. Planning for the future might just need one consideration from the planning lawyers. A right to a view from each new dwelling and no permitted development rights passing with the transition of the green belt to ‘diluted green belt’. So whilst the lawyers amongst you consider the fees, here are a few openers on the design opportunities.

Removing roads and pathways in the last 200m, also removes parked cars, and street clutter promoting open spaces and open views.

Removing roads and pathways in the last 200m, also removes parked cars, and street clutter promoting open spaces and open views.

A view is not protected in planning law!

The majority of green belt land provides some stunning uninterrupted views. Probably one of the most common objections to planning applications is the loss of a person(s) view, which in planning law has no standing. Any development of an existing single dwelling in the green belt, must prove no harm to the openness of the green belt. Openness is undefined and unquantifiable in area or volumetric terms.

Yet when the release of green belt is being considered for larger projects, once the ‘exceptional circumstances’ have been proven, there is no due consideration to the openness of the land that once was, Green belt.

So perhaps we should consider this transition more carefully. Green belt land, open or with woods and hedgerow, once provided unique and long views of the countryside. Why should those credentials be lost overnight just because planning law does not recognise the right to a view. If such a right existed on all urban land then you can imagine the battles and conflicts with permitted development. But if the green belt land is released having proven special circumstances then why not give the land a special category that values a view and preserves protected viewing corridors in perpetuity. If those views could be enjoyed by the new residents, they too would learn to appreciate, preserve and protect the view and the remainder of the green belt. Thus helping allay the fear of continual urban sprawl.

And if every rooftop is 'greened' the damage to the green belt is replaced with a far more sympathetic landscape.

And if every rooftop is 'greened' the damage to the green belt is replaced with a far more sympathetic landscape.

The challenge is to find a brave developer, who will question why they keep developing the same houses with drives and garages when the next generation is falling out of love with the car. A bolder approach might test the mettle of the agents, but somebody has to go first.