Public support for Green Belt: common rights in countryside access and recreation

Public support for Green Belt is legendary. It is unquestionably the most popular planning policy, and perhaps the only one that is readily recognised and fiercely defended.  This passionate support is often dismissed as sentiment or as an attachment to a rural idyll. In this new paper I want to locate public support for Green Belt within a specific cultural landscape of outdoor recreation and a particular history of common rights and access campaigns. This paper contends that Green Belt in England carries notions of common rights established in struggles against the physical enclosure and privatisation of open spaces from the early 19th Century and predicated on an understanding that the policy conveys a communal interest in land and landscape. It argues that contemporary public affection for Green Belts is generated and expressed through practices of ‘commoning’ or the performance of claimed common rights of property. Drawing on extensive field research with a mass popular campaign in North West England, the paper evidences the deployment of a history of access struggles to preserve Green Belt as recreational amenity and accessible countryside. In the perception of Green Belt as a common resource and in its performance as social ‘nature’ the paper posits the continuing relevance of common rights to planning policy. It concludes that a clearer understanding of popular support for Green Belt may provide planning scholarship with new perspectives on notions of public good and the use rights of property. Read the full paper here PublicSupportforGreenBelt_full

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