London Metropolitan Green Belt

London’s green belt is 486,000 hectares. It includes parts of outer London boroughs, well inside the M25, and includes large areas of Hertfordshire, Essex, Kent, Surrey, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire.

Increasing Pressure

Our members and allied organisations report a greatly increasing number of threats to London’s Green Belt. Government housing targets and liberalised planning policies are putting pressure on councils to redesignate Green Belt land for housing, encouraging developers to propose thousands of new homes on green sites, and resulting in planning appeals across the South East.

Our Message to Government

  • Call an immediate halt to the widespread release of the London Metropolitan Green Belt.
  • Strengthen the planning system to ensure protection policies are adhered to.
  • Halt a wave of Green Belt reviews and the large-scale release of previously protected Green Belt land.
  • Amend flawed housing target assessments which force encroachment onto Green Belt.
  • Reduce pressure on the South East and increase levelling-up opportunities in the rest of the UK.



    The Green Belt was established to check growth of large built-up areas (or sprawl), to prevent neighbouring towns from merging into one another and to preserve the special character of towns.

    Inside a Green Belt, except in very special circumstances, approval should not be given for the construction of new buildings. Only uses appropriate to a rural area such as agriculture, sport and cemeteries should be permitted.

    Nor should approval be given for a change of use of existing buildings except for residential use (subject to certain conditions).

    National Planning Policy Framework

    Principles of the Green Belt are set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF, Section 13: paras 137-151). NPPF paragraph 79 states ‘The fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open; the essential characteristics of Green Belts are their openness and their permanence.’


    • Prevention of the high costs of urban sprawl. With urban sprawl comes increased car use and travel costs, more expensive road construction and maintenance, decreased economic vitality of urban centres, higher air pollution and health-care costs, and the loss of productive land for farming and tourism.
    • Safeguarding of agricultural use, local food production and its proximity to potential markets in the city.
    • Promotion of recreation and sport, including country parks and playing fields.
    • Enhancement of health and reduction of stress by providing peaceful, natural breathing spaces and 9,899km of public rights of way around the capital.
    • Eco-system advantages including urban cooling, improved air quality, flood mitigation and carbon absorption (especially woodland areas).


    “Since about 1940, the population of Los Angeles has grown at about the same rate as the population of London. Los Angeles is now so enormous that if you somehow managed to pick it up and plonk it down on England, it would extend from Brighton on the south coast to Cambridge in the north-east. That’s what happens if you don’t have a green belt.”

    Andrew Motion, former Poet Laureate.

    As London grows into a higher-density city, so more people need green spaces. Land and biodiversity protection policies increasingly recognise their value, and require that they should be enhanced in future.

    We believe that when cities grow, land protection policies should be strengthened rather than weakened or abandoned.

    But don’t we need new homes?

    YES, and the LGBC supports building them – but we question where they are being built and how quickly developers are taking up existing planning permissions. 218,000 homes in and around London have planning permission, but haven’t been built. 111,000 homes in London are waiting to be built. Add to this the 66,800 in the South East and 40,300 in the East of England. The Mayor of London’s Further Alterations to the London Plan states that brownfield ‘opportunity areas’ in the capital alone could provide 300,000 new homes. None of these affect Green Belt.

    In England, planning permissions for over a million new homes have yet to be built out.

    So why aren’t they being built?

    Releasing Green Belt land does not increase the rate at which new homes are built, it just gives developers more sites to choose from and encourages them to ignore brownfield sites. Housebuilders can make more profit when previously-protected countryside is opened up to lower-density housing.

    Brownfield first

    The LGBC argues for a ‘brownfield first’ approach. We can plan to build more densely to absorb London’s growth, and numerous high-quality, low-rise designs have already shown that this is possible.

    Why do we say the housing figures are flawed?

    At the root of the problem are exceptionally high housing targets, based on flawed numbers and a system which pushes councils to make sites available even when there is no likelihood the homes will soon be built.

    Population projections are based on past growth and take no account of demographic, social and economic changes since Brexit and Covid. They frustrate policies to ‘level up’ the North and put further pressure on London and the South East. Housing algorithms are creating targets much higher than even the Government’s need assessments. They only open up countryside to housebuilders where they can make more profit.

    More such arguments can be found in our Chair Richard Knox-Johnston’s recent presentation to Esher Residents’ Association. Download Powerpoint Presentation here.



    August 2022 – 'Safe Under Us'?, The continued shrinking of London's local countryside

    June 2021 – LGBC Chairman’s Letter to the Prime Minister on Roundhouse Farm Colney Heath

    January 2021 – LGBC Press Release on Green Belt Threats report

    January 2021 – LGBC Green Belt Threats report – full text

    December 2020 – LGBC NEWSLETTER DEC 2020

    November 2020 – LGBC Draft Governing Document

    November 2020 – Letter to LGBC Chairman from the Housing Minister

    October 2020 – LGBC Submission on the Planning White Paper

    October 2020 – Campaign to Protect Rural England’s Final Submission to the Government on the Planning White Paper

    September 2020 – LGBC NEWSLETTER SEP 2020

    September 2020 – LGBC Response to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government Consultation

    August 2020 – London Green Belt Council’s Press Release in response to the White Paper

    August 2020 – Planning White Paper from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government

    July 2020 – LGBC NEWSLETTER JULY 2020

    May 2020 – LGBC NEWSLETTER MAY 2020

    March 2020  LGBC NEWSLETTER MARCH 2020

    February 2020 – LGBC NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 2020

    December 2019 – LGBC – Letter from London Mayor, Dec 2019

    November 2019 – APPG A Positive Vision for London’s Green Belt – Nov 2019

    September 2019 – LGBC NEWSLETTER SEPTEMBER 2019

    May 2019  LGBC news release about the 2019 local elections

    May 2019  LGBC press release about the Tandridge Plan

    April 2019 – Information about Smithfield, Billingsgate and New Spitalfields Markets moving to Dagenham

    April 2019  LGBC press release about the Sevenoaks Local Plan

    April 2019 – LGBC article ‘Density the Answer to Housing Land Supply’

    March 2019 – LGBC National Audit Office Report – London Green Belt Council commentary on the recent National Audit Office report on Planning for New Homes

    January 2019  Threats to the London Green Belt – an update to the report Safe under us?

    January 2019  LGBC press release on our latest Green Belt Threats report 

    April 2018  An introduction to the APPG (All-Party Parliamentary Group) for London’s Green Belt

    March 2018  LGBC press release from the All-Party Parliamentary Group in response to the Prime Minister’s speech on housing and the Green Belt

    February 2018 – Letter from London Green Belt Council to the Mayor of London in response to the draft London Plan

    November 2017 – Minutes of the annual general meeting of the London Green Belt Council

    September 2017  London Green Belt Council’s report on the accelerating loss of the Metropolitan Green Belt since Safe Under Us

    September 2016  Safe under Us an investigation into widespread threats from house building in the London Metropolitan Green Belt

    February 2016 – The London Green Belt Council’s response to the Government’s consultation on building ‘starter homes’ on London’s Green Belt

    December 2015  The London Green Belt Council Chairman’s letter published in The Times.

    Become a Member

    The LGBC is an independent, voluntary umbrella organisation for groups and individuals passionate about preserving and protecting London’s Green Belt.

    Membership of the LGBC starts at just £25 per annum for organisations and just £10 per annum for individual supporters.

    Join Us

    Make a Donation

    We also appreciate any donation you can make to further our work.