Green belt in Tehran, Iran
Adelaide Park Lands green belt around the city centre

A green belt is a policy, and land-use zone designation used in land-use planning to retain areas of largely undeveloped, wild, or agricultural land surrounding or neighboring urban areas. Similar concepts are greenways or green wedges, which have a linear character and may run through an urban area instead of around it. In essence, a green belt is an invisible line designating a border around a certain area, preventing development of the area and allowing wildlife to return and be established.


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In those countries which have them, the stated objectives of green belt policy are to:

The green belt has many benefits for people:

The effectiveness of green belts differs depending on location and country. They can often be eroded by urban rural fringe uses and sometimes, development 'jumps' over the green belt area, resulting in the creation of "satellite towns" which, although separated from the city by the green belt, function more like suburbs than independent communities.


In the 7th century, Muhammad established a green belt around Medina. He did this by prohibiting any further removal of trees in a 12-mile-long strip around the city.[5] In 1580 Elizabeth I of England banned new buildings in a 3-mile wide belt around the City of London in an attempt to stop the spread of plague. However, this was not widely enforced and it was possible to buy dispensations which reduced the effectiveness of the proclamation.[6]

In modern times, the term emerged from continental Europe where broad boulevards were increasingly used to separate new development from the centers of historic towns; most notably the Ringstraße in Vienna. Green belt policy was then pioneered in the United Kingdom confronted with ongoing rural flight. The term itself was first used in relation to the growth of London by Octavia Hill in 1875.[7][8] Various proposals were put forward from 1890 onwards but the first to garner widespread support was put forward by the London Society in its "Development Plan of Greater London" 1919. Alongside the CPRE they lobbied for a continuous belt (of up to two miles wide) to prevent urban sprawl, beyond which new development could occur.

The green belt around the city of York, in England

There are fourteen green belt areas in the UK covering 16,716 km2 or 12.4%[9] of England, and 164 km2 of Scotland; for a detailed discussion of these, see Green belt (UK). Other notable examples are the Ottawa Greenbelt and Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt[10] in Ontario, Canada. Ottawa's 20,350-hectare (78.6 sq mi) instance is managed by the National Capital Commission (NCC).[11] The more general term in the United States is green space or greenspace, which may be a very small area such as a park.

The dynamic Adelaide Park Lands, measuring approximately 7.6 km2, surround, unbroken, the city center of Adelaide. On the fringe of the eastern suburbs, an expansive natural green belt in the Adelaide Hills acts as a growth boundary for Adelaide and cools the city in the hottest months.

The concept of "green belt" has evolved in recent years to encompass not only "Greenspace" but also "Greenstructure" which comprises all urban and peri-urban green spaces, an important aspect of sustainable development in the 21st century. The European Commission's COST Action C11 (COST – European Cooperation in Science and Technology) is undertaking "Case studies in Greenstructure Planning" involving 15 European countries.

An act of the Swedish parliament from 1994 has declared a series of parks in Stockholm and the adjacent municipality of Solna to its north a "national city park" called Royal National City Park.


House prices

When established around an economically prosperous city, homes in a green belt may have been motivated by or result in considerable premiums. They may also be more economically resilient as popular among the retired and less attractive for short-term renting of modest homes.[12] Where in the city itself demand exceeds supply in housing, green belt homes compete directly with much city housing wherever such green belt homes are well-connected to the city.[12] Further, they in all cases attract a future-guaranteed premium for protection of their views, recreational space and for the preservation/conservation value itself.[12] Most also benefit from higher rates of urban gardening and farming, particularly when done in a community setting, which has positive effects on nutrition, fitness, self-esteem, and happiness, providing a benefit for both physical and mental health, in all cases easily provided or accessed in a green belt.[13] Government planners also seek to protect the green belt as its local farmers are engaged in peri-urban agriculture which augments carbon sequestration, reduces the urban heat island effect, and provides a habitat for organisms.[14] Peri-urban agriculture may also help recycle urban greywater and other products of wastewater, helping to conserve water and reduce waste.[15]

The housing market contrasts with more uncertainty and economic liberalism inside and immediately outside of the belt:[12] green belt homes have by definition nearby protected landscapes.[12] Local residents in affluent parts of a green belt, as in parts of the city, can be assured of preserving any localized bourgeois status quo present and so assuming the green belt is not from the outset an area of more social housing proportionately than the city, it naturally tends toward greater economic wealth. In a protracted housing shortage, the reduction of the green belt is one of the possible solutions. All such solutions may be resisted however by private landlords who profit from a scarcity of housing, for example by lobbying to restrain new housing across the city. The stated motivation and benefits of the green belt might be well-intentioned (public health, social gardening and agriculture, environment), but inadequately realized relative to other solutions.

Critics include Mark Pennington and the economics-heavy think tanks such as the Institute of Economic Affairs who would see a reduction in many green belts. Such studies focus on the widely inherent limitations of green belts. In most examples, only a small fraction of the population uses the green belt for leisure purposes. The IEA study claims that a green belt is not strongly causally linked to clean air and water. Rather, they view the ultimate result of the decision to green-belt a city as one to prevent housing demand within the zone to be met with supply,[16] thus exacerbating high housing prices and stifling competitive forces in general.

Increasing urban sprawl

Another area of criticism comes from the fact that, since a green belt does not extend indefinitely outside a city, it spurs the growth of areas much further away from the city core than if it had not existed, thereby actually increasing urban sprawl.[17] Examples commonly cited are the Ottawa suburbs of Kanata and Orleans, both of which are outside the city's green belt and are currently undergoing explosive growth. This leads to other problems, as residents of these areas have a longer commute to workplaces in the city and worse access to public transport. It also means people have to commute through the green belt, an area not designed to cope with high levels of transportation. Not only is the merit of a green belt subverted, but the green belt may heighten the problem and make the city unsustainable.

There are many examples whereby the actual effect of green belts is to act as a land reserve for future freeways and other highways. Examples include sections of Ontario Highway 407 north of Toronto and the Hunt Club Road and Richmond Road south of Ottawa. Whether they are originally planned as such, or the result of a newer administration taking advantage of land that was left available by its predecessors is debatable.

United Kingdom

Main article: Green belt (United Kingdom)

Green belts were established in England in 1955 to simply prevent the physical growth of large built-up areas; to prevent neighboring cities and towns from merging.[18] In the UK, green belt around the major conurbations has been criticized as one of the main protectionist bars to building housing, the others being other planning restrictions (Local Plans and restrictive covenants) and developers' land banking. Local Plans and land banking are to be relaxed for home building in the 2015-2030 period by law and the green belt will be reduced by some local authorities as each local authority must now consider it among the available shortlisted options in drawing development plans to meet higher housing targets. Critics argue that the green belts defeat their stated objective of saving the countryside and open spaces. Such criticism falls short when considering the other, broader benefits such as peri-urban agriculture which includes gardening and carries many benefits, especially to the retired[citation needed]. It also ignores the strategic aims of the Attlee Ministry in 1946, just as in France, of shifting capital away from the capital city (addressing regional disparity) and avoiding intra-urban gridlock.

The restrictions of the Green Belt were particularly in the 1940s-1980s mitigated with planned, government-supported, new towns under the New Towns Act 1946 and New Towns Act 1981. These saw establishment beyond the green belts of new homes, infrastructure, businesses, and other facilities. Without large-scale sustainable development, infill development sees urban green space lost. A chronic housing shortage with inadequate new settlements and/or extension of those outside of the green belt and/or no green belt reduction has seen many brownfield sites, often well-suited to industry and commerce, lost in existing conurbations.[19]

Notable examples


Map of the Adelaide Park Lands



The central core of Ottawa, located in the middle of the map, is surrounded by the Ottawa Greenbelt

Dominican Republic



Rennes Green Belt

New Zealand

Dunedin Town Belt flanks the hills above the central city

In New Zealand, the term Town Belt is most commonly used for an urban green belt.


South Korea

United Kingdom

Main article: Green belt (United Kingdom)

Green belts in England, with Metropolitan Green Belt outlined in red

United States

See also


  1. ^ a b Yaoqing, Yuan; Chen, Xiangji (May 2008). "Air Anion Density and its Affecting Factors in Greenbelts of Changsha". 2008 2nd International Conference on Bioinformatics and Biomedical Engineering. IEEE. pp. 3824–3826. doi:10.1109/icbbe.2008.457. ISBN 978-1-4244-1747-6. S2CID 43199426.
  2. ^ a b ZHU, Chunyang; JI, Peng; LI, Shuhua (2017-03-21). "Effects of Urban Green Belts on the Air Temperature, Humidity and Air Quality". Journal of Environmental Engineering and Landscape Management. 25 (1): 39–55. doi:10.3846/16486897.2016.1194276. ISSN 1648-6897.
  3. ^ a b c d Bae, C. H. C. (1998). Korea's greenbelts: impacts and options for change. Pac. Rim. L. & Pol'y J., 7, 479.
  4. ^ a b c d Grupo Terra Dominicana: Cinturón Verde. (2004-02-23). Retrieved on 2013-12-06.
  5. ^ Iqbal, Munawwar (2005). Islamic Perspectives on Sustainable Development. p. 27. Published jointly by Palgrave Macmillan, University of Bahrain, and Islamic Research and Training Institute.
  6. ^ Halliday, Stephen (2004). Underground to Everywhere. Sutton Publishing Limited. p. 118. ISBN 978-0-7509-3843-3.
  7. ^ "London's green belt: the forgotten strangler of the capital". The Guardian. 2012-05-16. Retrieved 2022-12-02.
  8. ^ "How the battle for Hampstead Heath inspired the National Trust". Ham & High. Retrieved 2022-12-02.
  9. ^ "Vita Architecture - Building on the Greenbelt". Retrieved 2024-01-08.
  10. ^ "Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation".
  11. ^ National Capital Commission. "National Capital Commission :: The National Capital Greenbelt :: History and Culture Archived 2011-07-20 at the Wayback Machine." National Capital Commission – Commission De La Capitale Nationale (NCC-CCN). 7 December 2007. NCC-CCN. Accessed 28 June 2008, unavailable February 2013.
  12. ^ a b c d e Tim Harford (2005). The Undercover Economist. Little, Brown. ISBN 0345494016.
  13. ^ Sarah Wakefield, Fiona Yeudall, Carolin Taron, Jennifer Reynolds, Ana Skinner, "Growing urban health: Community gardening in South-East Toronto" Health Promotion International, 2007
  14. ^ Hoi-Fei Mok, Virginia G. Williamson, James R. Grove, Kristal Burry, S. Fiona Barker, Andrew J. Hamilton,"Strawberry fields forever? Urban agriculture in developed countries: a review" Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 2013
  15. ^ Hoi-Fei Mok, Virginia G. Williamson, James R. Grove, Kristal Burry, S. Fiona Barker, Andrew J. Hamilton, "Strawberry fields forever? Urban agriculture in developed countries: a review" Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 2013
  16. ^ Mark Pennington (18 March 2002). "Liberating the Land: The Case for Private Land-Use Planning". Institute of Economic Affairs. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
  17. ^ How Much Open Space is Enough?" St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN) – April 22, 2007 – A1 MAIN
  18. ^ Caves, R. W. (2004). Encyclopedia of the City. Routledge. p. 318.
  19. ^ Political Barriers To Housebuilding In Britain: A Critical Case Study Of Protectionism & Its Industrial-Commercial Effects, Industrial Systems Research/ Google Books, revised electronic edition 2013. Chapter two: "Greenbelt Barriers To Urban Expansion", Ebook ISBN 9780906321645 [1]
  20. ^ Canada’s first Greenbelt Fixing Boundaries: An International Review Of Greenbelt Boundaries. p. 27. Published jointly by Greg MacDonald, Ryerson University.
  21. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-01-06. Retrieved 2009-08-05.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ a b c Macleod, Donald V.L. (July 2001). "Parks or people? National parks and the case of Del Este, Dominican Republic". Progress in Development Studies. 1 (3): 221–235. doi:10.1177/146499340100100303. ISSN 1464-9934. S2CID 153548020.
  23. ^ "مساحت کمربند سبز تهران به بیش از ۳۹ هزار هکتار رسید". January 2017.
  24. ^ "طرح کمربند سبز تهران باید تکمیل شود".
  25. ^ a b Bengston, David N.; Youn, Yeo-Chang (2006). "Urban Containment Policies and the Protection of Natural Areas: The Case of Seoul's Greenbelt". Ecology and Society. 11 (1). doi:10.5751/es-01504-110103. hdl:10535/3395. ISSN 1708-3087.
  26. ^ Gray, Nolan (16 May 2019). "America's First Greenbelt May Be in Jeopardy". CityLab. Retrieved 16 May 2019.

Media related to Green belts at Wikimedia Commons