Land News

Green-belt rules to be overhauled as pressure to build rises, 12th August, 2004

RULES that govern green belt areas around Scotland’s towns and cities are to be overhauled, ministers announced yesterday.

The Scottish Executive said a review of current policy - the first review since 1985 - was needed because of increasing pressure from building developers.
The extra housing, to be built by 2021, comes on top of the 100,000 homes already earmarked to be completed over the next 20 years.

Margaret Curran, the communities minister, said a new draft policy would be published in the spring.

"Green belts have played an important role in shaping Scotland’s cities and towns over the last 50 years," she said.

"However, since policy was last reviewed in 1985, there have been many changes in development pressures and how green belts are used.

"They may serve a wider range of purposes than originally envisaged, with increasing interest in issues such as urban regeneration and sustainable transport."

Recent research commissioned by the Executive has looked at a variety of options for the future - including scrapping green belts or creating a two-tier system incorporating both permanent and fixed-term protected areas.

Ms Curran insisted yesterday that scrapping them would be wrong and that a two-tier system could be confusing.

"There is a real need to refresh green-belt policy, and, over the coming months, we will take forward discussions on how we can strengthen our green belts so that they continue to play a key role in supporting our aspirations for healthy and vibrant cities, towns and countryside and protecting valued green space," Ms Curran said.

The research found that while green belts were viewed as important by both the public and planners, there were "differences of understanding" about their role between different groups and in different parts of the country.

And while green belts were widely seen as a long-term or permanent form of protection from development, in reality there had been much re- designation and development.

The research also said green belts should be seen as a tool of long-term planning, not a "land bank" to meet future housing needs, as some local authorities appeared to view them.

Green MSPs responded to the announcement of the review with suspicion, saying it could amount to a "softening up" of the public for further erosion of green-belt areas.

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