THE BLOG

Belt Tightening

20/12/2013 11:20 GMT | Updated 18/02/2014 10:59 GMT

The green belt is under attack by greedy property developers and grasping politicians. This land is protected from development to restrict urban sprawl and preserve green space for people (and for nature).

New research by the National Trust and Local Government Information Unit reveals that over half of councils in England expect to allocate green belt for development over the next five years. More than half of the councils surveyed have brownfield sites available that could help meet the five-year housing land supply target, but these had not been considered viable for development.

One of my children's favourite places to play is Nunhead Cemetery, just up the road from where we live in South London. It is part of the South East London Green Chain - a crescent moon of woodlands and parks linked by a circular walk. The cemetery is classed as Metropolitan Open Land, a classification that gives London sites the same level of protection as green belt land.

Across the country there are places like Nunhead Cemetery; magical places where children and families play, climb trees, have adventures and maybe even learn about nature. A great majority of these places fall within the green belt.

I understand that developments on Green Belt land are not always massive, that there is a need for more homes, and that there are some great housing developments that help people interact with the local natural environment (see the Neighbourhoods Green website for some fantastic examples).

But from my own experience, seeing children playing in fields on the edges of cities, I know that the Green Belt is an incredible resource to help reconnect children with nature.

I'm concerned that, at the same time as allowing urban areas to sprawl into the Green Belt, government cuts to local authority budgets means spending on parks is being slashed. Half of councils have reduced grounds maintenance staff. 1 in 3 local authorities expect the total number of parks to decrease - irrevocably lost to developers or the management transferred to other organisations.

In 2011 David Cameron said "we must ensure the appropriate protections for our magnificent countryside. This is why our reforms will maintain protections for the Green Belt..."

So much for protecting it. Two years later he's building on it.

If we're serious about reconnecting kids with nature, we need more enticing natural green spaces where they can play, explore and learn. Children today choose to spend less and less time outside. One reason is that there's less on offer. The government should be ashamed - they are now part of the problem.

Join the WILD NETWORK and help connect children with nature.