The green belt was part of the 1940s package of planning measures that were intended to protect farmland and to stop the spread of towns and cities. It is still a popular concept despite the fact that social and economic conditions have changed significantly since the first green belts were designated. The largest cities have seen decline in their economic base while the rural economy has prospered. While more people are seeking to live in small towns and villages, the same people also want to protect the environment and the countryside landscape; everyone would like a green belt around their home. This book is innovatory in that it challenges the value of keeping green belts. It argues that green belts fail to meet today's social and economic needs and that the concept is in urgent need of revision. But can alternatives to the green belt be found which are politically acceptable? The report argues that it is now necessary to develop a new strategic plan that is both less rigid towards new development and more sensitive to the need to protect and enhance the quality of the environment than the present green belts policy.
The conclusions demand a wide debate among all those interested in the future of cities and the countryside. The study was written for the Regional Studies Association by John Herington. It reflects the views of the majority of the Working Party on green belts which was established by the association in 1986. The terms of reference of the group were to undertake a general review of green belt policy in the United Kingdom with a view to evaluating the importance of green belts as a tool for current urban and regional policy. Research papers were commissioned from individual members of the working party and formed the basis of the report. The author John Herington is a member of the Royal Town Planning Institute and member of the Council of the Town and Country Planning Association. He has a background in local government and a wide experience of planning research and consultancy both in Britain and Sweden. His book "The Outer City" was published in 1984 by Paul Chapman and "The Role of Environmental Impact Assessment in the Planning Process" published by Mansell appeared in 1988.