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Decisions/Decisions/Decisions: "London’s Green Belt has never had a Proper Plan"

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"... The famous circular of 1955 set the extent of the Green Belt as 5-7 miles – simply Unwin’s 6 miles figure (plus a civil servants 1 mile buffer) from his 1926 report. Unwin was concerned with the picturesque and 6 miles was his assessment of the minimum distance for the edge of an urban area to fade into the landscape background. The figure was taken up by Abercrombie’s Post War Greater London but this was never a statutory plan. The Ministry only set down an indicative map of London’s Green Belt based on it. Following the 1955 circular, Green Belt could only be designated by county maps and then structure plans.

"... It was politically convenient for governments not to enforce the 1955 circular on the extent of the Green Belt. Especially after the publication of the Peter Shore Inner Cities White paper in 1977. Hence the Green Belt grew not because of a plan but because of a series of ad hoc expedient decisions taken against a temporary lull in the growth of London’s population.

"Subtly the focus had shifted from controlling the growth of London, which was no longer growing, to controlling the growth of Home Counties towns, which were. The growth was to be displaced to New Towns but with Thatcher the new towns programme was left to run out of steam with nothing to replace it.

"... The time is right for a proper plan of what the London Green Belt extent should be – the alternative would either be a series of ad hoc deletions or not meeting the critical need for housing."

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