Let parishes green their green belt

Incredibly, local parishes have no power over their own green belt now.

Much of the green belt is precious, but some parts of it are disused quarries, car parks, airfields, or just fields of industrial monocrops, sprayed with pesticides and without public access.

 we're sure local people could think of a better use for this piece of green belt if they were allowed to. Image from paul wellman

we're sure local people could think of a better use for this piece of green belt if they were allowed to. Image from paul wellman

We should give more control to parishes and other neighbourhood planning areas to decide if there is an unpleasant and unwanted piece of land in their green belt that would look better with some beautiful, well-designed homes and gardens to meet the needs of local people. Then they can talk directly with the landowner to require the style, size and type of houses and the benefits that they want. They should also be able to insist on their own design code, so it looks exactly how they want and enhances the area. They might even decide to allow a new garden village or extension.

Imposing homes from the top down can cause a massive backlash. Local people know whether a particular plot is precious countryside or would be better used for attractive housing, gardens and trees. Of course, areas of outstanding natural beauty and other designations should retain their national protection. Those are national assets, for the whole country.

There are parishes with only a few hundred residents but thousands of acres of green belt, some of which is sometimes quite ugly. Allowing new homes on that part could pay for a new school and village hall, or allow a new park or common to be created — whatever the community needs.

The landowner could also create a new development company, shared with the community, or dedicate affordable homes for current residents.

Parishes can’t discuss directly with the landowner to get what they need at the moment, because parishes don’t have power to decide. It is up to a higher authority, so the results are rarely something that local people like.

It should be up to local communities to decide how best to enhance the precious resource of their current green belt. Who is in a better position to decide than they are?