Sunday 12 February 2017

English Green Belt Atlas, Version 3

In 2015, after being posed the question by geodata guru Bob Barr, I decided to attempt to calculate the percentage of land in each local authority in England that was designated as green belt, using the official data from DCLG. This resulted in version 1 and 2 of my green belt atlas - a spare time project that I hoped people might find useful and informative. According to my calculations, 186 of the 326 local authorities in England contain at least some green belt land (that's 57%) but the amount within each area varies a lot, as you can see in my spreadsheet. For example, Sevenoaks, Epping Forest and Tandridge (below) all have more than 90% of their area as green belt, in contrast to (e.g.) 47% in Wirral and just over 5% in Bristol. I'd also be interested in the correlation between this data and house prices, or house price growth, if anyone is up for it (looking at you, Tom Forth).

This is my estimated figure, but I think it's pretty accurate

I've used the latest green belt data (2014-15) for this version

Surrounded by green belt but not much within the boundaries

I was prompted to go back to this after the release of the Housing White Paper last week and my last post on buildings in the green belt. Should we build all over the green belt? Definitely not. Should we consider building on little bits of it? Maybe. But before any of that I think it's useful to understand where and what it is, which is what prompted me to look at all this in the first place. I've uploaded all the individual map files to a separate Google Drive folder but if you're too busy to click, here are a few more.

The 'overboundedness' of Leeds' urban fabric is evident here

I find the North Warwickshire green belt split interesting

Manchester's green belt area is also interesting - airport in it?

My calculations suggest St Albans is more than 80% green belt

Hounslow - about a fifth of this is green belt

This surrounds Cambridge pretty neatly

Click to see all 186 maps

If you look at the folder with all the maps in it you should see that the figures all seem pretty accurate based on a visual comparison but there are a couple where I'm not 100% sure the figures seem right, but it might just be me. Either way, feel free to get back to me if you spot something that doesn't seem right.

This figure looks a little high, but it might just be my eyes

A London Borough with more than 50% of land designated as green belt

Sheffield is 25% green belt (not to mention part of the Peak District National Park)

York's green belt: note the little non-green belt part to the SE

That's all for now. Like I said, this was motivated by a personal interest in the topic and my desire to share useful information on an important issue. If  you want to use any of the maps, feel free. Or, if you want to get in touch if you've spotted an error then please do. If you're looking for an interactive web map of the green belt, then you have a choice: the Telegraph version, my CARTO version, or my Google search and zoom version.

The easy-to-remember link for the full set of images is

Methods: this was another QGIS Atlas project, and more details of the method can be found in the footnotes of the original post. The only difference this time is a slightly different style, I've added in the local authority names and boundaries, plus some place names. But you'll notice if you look through the images that the number of labels differs by area - I could fix that but it would take too long for a spare time project like this. However, I think it does help with orientation. This version was done in QGIS 2.14. The files are all 300dpi PNGs and you are free to use them as you wish.