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Take a new look at Green Belt plan.

Sir, - Looking at Birmingham from the air, we can see why the Green Belt was, and still is, an essential element in the planning of the area. Look north-east and see what has happened without a Green Belt, the urban sprawl, the conurbation where even with a map, it is difficult to see where Birmingham ends and the other smaller towns begin.

Look again: Birmingham is unexpectedly green. The city fathers left us two legacies: formally designed public parks and extensive parklands and informal gardens surrounding Victorian homes, now city parks.

But other green patches are privately owned gardens and golf courses, not for public use. Very little is wildlife haunts, uncultivated areas where nature is free to proliferate, where threatened species are protected and humans can enjoy it all.

Now the sites themselves are threatened. It was in an attempt to avoid the tragedy of the Black Country conurbation that the Green Belt concept was developed between the wars, to define and confine the city, and to prevent ribbon development. It was also to be a kind of 'cordon sanitaire', a healthy place for personal recreation, an environmental lung for a city exposed to industrial and traffic pollution.

Regional planning should be a safeguard against a repeat of urban sprawl but it may not be enough to prevent the suburban minority dominating a new period of growth when frantic attempts are being made to attract industry from outside by offering greensites for industrial development and linking this with plans for more Green Belt housing. Albert Bore's curious term 'industrial corridors' suggests something suspiciously like pre war ribbon development.

There are many ways in which the present demands for housing can be met without extensive demands for green sites. One way is tackling the problem of empty houses by repair or even rebuild now that money is being released for that purpose. High-rise build was a tragic mistake, not because flats are an unsuitable form of accommodation but because the wrong tenants were placed in them. Now they can be refurbished for alternative use.

But what about brown sites? Recent research has established that there are many more than we thought. Of course, they do not have the appeal of green sites, but are we to tolerate brown holes in our cities, continuing to deteriorate while we despoil the countryside?

Not all are desperately polluted. In fact, much of their unpopularity is due to their inaccessibility which can be tackled in area development schemes.

It is clear that inducement to industry to invade our Green Belt is failing and we should be looking for ways to protect and extend it, with a new look at its function and purpose.


Media Officer,

West Midlands Area Green Party.
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Title Annotation:Letter
Author:Knowles, Pat
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 24, 2000
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