AGM/Study Session and Exhibition at MERL, University of Reading
Saturday 19 March 2016. 10.00am to 5 pm
Existing and new members all welcome
The Study Session and Exhibition will focus on
New Towns, Landscape and Gordon Patterson – Celebrating mid 20C Design
We have invited Elain Harwood, senior architectural advisor at Heritage England responsible for post war research and listing programme. Dr Harwood’s talk is entitled: Housing, Traffic and Landscape – detailed urban planning in the New Towns;Tom Turner, landscape architect and garden historian who begins the afternoon session with his talk and video on Landscape planning for London and the New Towns in the 1940s.
In 2011, HTA Landscape Design won the Landscape Institute’s Heritage & Conservation Award for their restoration of Stevenage Town Centre Gardens and currently the landscape practice is involved with Hemel Water Gardens. Oliver Rock, landscape architect with HTA will discuss both these restoration projects in his talk: Landscape without Boundaries ; Caroline Gould, deputy archivist, University of Reading will present New Town related material from other special collections held at MERL, including the CPRE and Land Settlement archives. Also, FOLAR very much hope that Gordon Patterson will be able to join us on the day.
The speakers have all been invited to help shed light on various aspects of new town designs and to explore elements and ideas from this period that have relevance today and for the future.
Gordon Patterson’s archive is one of the most recent additions to the Landscape Institute’s archive deposited at MERL and work from his and other collections will be on display.
There will also be a book sale of some fabulous duplicate books from the Landscape Institute library.
Our AGM is from 11am-12.30pm, but all are welcome from 10am onwards, and the afternoon Study Session will run from2pm-5pm. The New Town special exhibition and book sale will be 10.30-5pm. Teas and coffee provided; sandwich selection available to purchase in the seminar room at MERL.
Study day ticket: £10
FOLAR annual membership: £20
PLEASE BOOK EARLY FOR THIS EVENT as we have a limit on numbers – 50 maximum.
Bookings can be made via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: 07597768931 or by downloading a booking form from www.folar.uk/news & events. Cheques and booking forms can be sent by post to
FOLAR, c/o Land Management Services, Redhill Chambers, 2d High Street, Redhill, Surrey RH1 1RJ
Location of AGM/Study Day &Exhibition, 19 March 2016: MERL, Redlands Road, Reading, RG1 5EX
Should house building be allowed on London’s Green Belt? Not yet. Building on brownfield land and densification are better options. But if we look further into the future, as did an advocate of landscape architecture in 1829, building on the Green Belt may have to be considered. So preparations should be made for a Grand Bargain. If this does happen, then people who relocate to London may choose this area to move to, especially if it close to the schools in london they want their family to attend.
As detailed on the above video, the Green Belt land area within Greater London is 35,257 hectares (22% of London). Much of it is public open space and golf courses etc. But 13,608 hectares is agricultural land and many of its owners would like nothing better than planning permission for housing. Look at the land values:
Agricultural Use £21,000/hectare
Industrial Use £482,000/hectare
Residential Use £7,500,000/hectare
So a Grand Bargain is possible. Owners of the 13,608 hectares would be told that (1) planning authorities will never give permission for developing their land (2) to provide a double-lock, they will be offered either £21,000/hectare for a non-development covenant or £42,000/ hectare for the land passing into protective trust ownership. If the owners of the 13,608 ha sold their land at £42,000/ha the cost would 13,608 x £42,000 = £572m. This sum could raised by selling a fraction of the agricultural land at residential land prices. Selling 0.6% of the agricultural greenbelt (82 hectares) within Greater London would raise £615m. Once housing land has been sold, as much as possible of the remaining 13,526 hectares of land would pass into the ownership of charitable trusts with well-defined conservation objectives.
The principle of buying a land contract at agricultural prices and using it for development was the basis of the UK New Towns programme. The New Towns Act (9 & 10 Geo. VI c. 68) was passed in 1946 and remains on the statute book as the New Towns Act 1981. With modification, it could be used to secure the future of London’s Green Belt and to test an approach to dealing with the all the green belt land in England and Wales, amounting to 1,638,760 hectares in 2014.
Simon Jenkins, quoted in the video, believes there should be no house building on London’s Green Belt at present but that 10-20% of the land might be suitable for housing if the remaining 80-90% was fully protected from development. This would be a good spot for a Wimbledon planning architect to step in if allowed, to create some wonderful homes for the surroundings that complement the area instead of distracting from it. Although there is a housing shortage in London, there are still many homes available to rent and buy online from websites like thespacestation.co.uk for example. Perhaps there isn’t a need for brand new homes to be built on the green belt until all local, existing homes are lived in. Furthermore, Dieter Helms, also quoted on the video, argues that the Green Belt land needs more than protection: it needs a programme of landscape improvements to enhance its stock of public goods. My view is that we should make no pronouncements about how much Green Belt land might by built on until a parcel-by-parcel landscape assessment of the Green Belt has been completed. What this would involved is explained towards the end of the video embedded in the post on the Metropolitan Green Belt.
The Dragon Garden has a landscape architecture office at 3,500m (=11,482 ft)
A Dragon Garden is being made for the Druk White Lotus School in a part of Ladakh India which is often described as Little Tibet. The design work is being done by pro bono volunteers. The vidoes below describe (1) a 2015 resident landscape architects experience in sourcing approx 900 m2 of slate paving from a height of 5,000m and laying it at 3,500m in the Indus Valley (2) the design principles which are guiding the paving and other aspects of the Buddhist-influenced garden and landscape design. School gardens are even more important in Ladakh than in the UK, because the kids spend a lot of time out of doors – and because the site of this garden was a desert before work on the school garden began.
John Claudius Loudon’s 1829 plan was for Breathing Places and Zones of Country
The LAA website provides an outline of the history of London open space and greenspace planning with free downloads of past examples. It is an important subject. But the lack of agreement the best name for this type of plan has resulted in conceptual confusion. Some of the names which have been used are listed below, with comments on their origins. The aim is to stimulate a debate on ‘What are we trying to plan?’
Breathing Places and Country Zones for London
These were the names used by John Claudius Loudon in his 1829 plan and were slightly modified by Ebenezeer Howard in 1898. In a chapter on Social Cities, Howard wrote that ‘the new town may have a zone of country of its own’. Frederick Osborn, in a later introduction to Howard’s book, wrote: ‘Country Belt, Agricultural belt, Rural Belt. These terms are synonymous. They describe a stretch of countryside around and between towns. separating each from the others, and predominantly permanent farmland and parkland, whether or not such land is in the ownership of a town authority’. Howard was widely read, and did not give us his sources, but it is probable that Olmsted’s Boston Emerald Necklace was among his sources and this idea certainly influenced his successors. It was a plan for inter-linking parks with green corridors. Download a free pdf copy of John Claudius Loudon’s 1829 Breathing Places for the Metropolis – a landscape architecture and open space plan for London.
Ebenezer Howard proposed a Country Belt which has become known as The Green Belt
Green Belt and Green Girdle for London
Osborn explains the term: ‘Green Belt. Originally used by Unwin as a further synonym for Country Belt, this term has also been applied, thus far confusingly, to a narrow strip of parkland more or less encircling part of a built-up metropolitan or large urban area. Park Belt is a better name for such a strip’. Raymond Unwin also used the term ‘Green Girdle’ and proposed what was, as Osborn states, a belt of publicly owned parkland forming a ring round London.
Park System and Open Space Plan for London
Patrick Abercrombie drew on Howard’s, Unwin’s and Olmsted’s ideas for the 1943-4 County of London Plan. Chapter 3 has the title ‘Open Spaces and Park System’ and proposed a Green Belt round London with a network of green links to connect it to central London. Though flawed, it was a truly great vision.
Abercrombie proposed a web of open space to link parks in Central London to The Green Belt
Green Web, Greenway Network and a Green Strategy for London
The 1992 Green Strategy proposed a web of overlapping greenway networks
Between 1990 and 1992 I wrote a report for the London Planning Advisory Committee with the title Towards a green strategy for London. The word ‘green’ was used in two senses: (1) to mean vegetated, as in ‘GreenSpace’ (2) to mean environmental, as ‘GreenParty. The report was accompanied by an article (in the Town Planning Review on ‘Open space planning in London: from standards per 1000 to green strategy’) which argued that the modernist target of providing ‘7 acres of open space per 1000 people’ was of no value beyond the simple point that ‘it is good for cities to have more public park space’. One of the recommendations was that because most people now have sedentary jobs there should be an emphasis on planning greeways as routes which are good from an environmental point of view.
All London Green Grid
The 2012 All London Green Grid embraced a wide range of public open space, recreational and environmental objectives
Without having done enough research to be sure, I believe the introduction of the term ‘Green Grid’ to London open space planning came from John Hopkins. My source for this information is a conversation when John was a partner in a landscape architecture firm, LDA Design. John had been studying in America and may have borrowed the term from ecologists. He liked the idea of giving an ecological dimension to London open space planning and used the term when developing the East London Green Grid. It combined ecological, visual and recreational objectives. Always generous, John told me, when walking along a corridor, that ‘the ideas came from your books – keep on producing them!’ I did not press him for details, and had never used the term ‘green grid’, but guess John was referring to Chapter 4 of Landscape planning and environmental impact design (1998). The Green Grid idea was taken further by the Greater London Authority and, under the leadership of landscape architect Jamie Dean, became the All London Green Grid. It is the most far-reaching public open space plan London has had since 1829. ‘Public open space’ can be defined as amenity land which has public access and is not built up.
London Landscape Planning
All the terms discussed above have value and I hope they will remain in use for explaining the ideas to community, professional and political groups. But the components need more conceptual clarity and this may be achieved through their integration as a London Landscape Plan. The following account of what I have in mind is edited from Chapter 2 of Landscape planning and environmental impact design (1998),
Landscape plans deal with environmental public goods and should guide the process of planning and design for the conservation and improvement of environmental public goods. These goods can be placed in three groups: Natural, Social, and Visual.
Landscape planning for cities, parks and greenways embraces social, environmental and visual objectives
NATURAL PROCESS LANDSCAPE PLANS
Landform Plans: to protect and enhance a distinctive and convenient landform.
Waterspace Plans: to provide space for water storage, water transport and water recreation.
Habitat Plans: to protect and enhance the pattern of natural and semi-natural habitats.
Air Plans: to provide fresh air, clean air and shelter.
SOCIAL PROCESS LANDSCAPE PLANS
Greenspace Plans: to provide public access to environmentally good space in urban and rural areas.
Special Area Plans: to protect and create areas of special character.
Recreation Plans: to increase opportunities for outdoor recreation: footpaths, bridleways, cycleways, campsites, food gathering places.
Sustainability Plans: to make human life more sustainable, both in town and country.
VISUAL LANDSCAPE PLANS
Scenic Plans: to protect and create good scenery and good views, both in town and country.
Spatial Plans: to protect and create good spatial patterns.
Skyline Plans: to protect and create good skylines.
Urban Roofscape Plans: for skylines, vegetation, habitat creation and recreation.
Landscape architects have a leadership role but many other professional skills and responsibilities are involved.
Many jobs and professional skills are involved in the planning, design and management of good public open spaces in cities
Upstream forest clearance and land drainage, combined with urban drainage from roofs and roads, is a major cause of flooding
‘In all the industrial countries, rivers have suffered from forest clearance in the uplands, farm drainage in the lowlands and water-proofing in urban areas. Forest clearance took place on the hills, in the valleys and on the plains. This accelerated water runoff. Ploughing and drainage took place in agricultural areas. This accelerated water runoff. River channels were deepened, widened, straightened and fixed. This accelerated water runoff. Large new urban areas were rendered partially impervious, with roofing and paving materials. This accelerated water runoff. The capacity of washlands and flood plains to accommodate peak volumes was diminished by building upon them. Accelerated water runoff raised flood peaks. It then became necessary to place urban rivers into underground culverts or concrete canals, or to supplement their capacity with ‘flood relief channels’. Flooding in urban environments can lead to widespread property damage and even disturb sewage systems. Homeowners may require sewage damage cleanup services to help with the restoration of affected homes. The net effect of all the changes was a dramatic increase in peak storm discharge. Embankments had to be built to prevent overtopping by floodwater. When these works are viewed together it is clear that they do not constitute a good use of public or private expenditure.’ (Tom Turner Landscape planning and environmental impact design 2nd edition 1998 p.294)
The susainable landscape approach to flood protection relies on water detention, infiltration and evapo-transpiration.
It seems that many people struggle with floods, due to the aforementioned reasons. If your property ever becomes flooded or suffers any damage from flood waters, you might want to look into something like ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba to get things fixed as soon as possible. These floods can destroy the foundations of your home, as well as cause excessive rain damage to parts of your home, such as the roof. Sometimes in adverse weather conditions like flooding, trees can fall over, also posing a large risk to homeowners’ roofing. It is possible to fix a damaged roof though and specialists in roof repair (such as this roofing company: beemerkangaroof.com/service-areas/spartanburg-roofing-contractor/) can be called out in emergencies when damages are severe. Flooding can also cause damage to internal features, such as your home furnace and if that is damaged you will need specialist help to restore it. Working with experts like Buric Heating and Air Condition (www.burichvac.com/beltsville-heating-furnace/) will help homeowners who are discovering issues that have been created by rising water levels. Everybody knows how devastating floods can be. The good news, though, is that landscape architects can offer an ecological and economical solution to the flooding problem in villages, towns, cities and other urban areas: water should be detained and infiltrated. Collectively, these policies can be described as Urban Surface Water Management, Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems and Water Sensitive Urban and Landscape Design.
The London Metropolitan Green Belt is under threat from house builders, who prefer building on cheap greenbelt land to expensive brownfield land, and from those see it as a cheap solution to the shortage of housing resulting from London’s expanding population. The Landscape Institute is preparing a Greenbelt Policy Paper and the above video was made as a contribution to the debate, from Robert Holden and Tom Turner. The ten main points are:
The London Green Belt is widely acclaimed as a popular and successful policy. It should be retained, conserved and enhanced.
The video starts by making the point that two roles and two histories underlie the Green Belt idea. First, it is as an idea for restraining the growth of London, which was proclaimed in 1580 by Elizabeth I (William Petty, quoted on the video, gave a statistical argument for containing London but did not specify the width of a protected belt). Second, it is an idea for London to have a country zone for a wide range of green belt uses, including conservation, recreation, food production and water management. John Claudius Loudon (in 1829) and Ebenezer Howard (in 1898) were the main proponents of this idea. Loudon had an instrumental role in the development and adoption of landscape architecture.
In the 20th century, the Green Belt’s role in controlling the growth of London received more official support than its other roles.
London needs a Metropolitan Green Belt Park Authority so that the Greenbelt can promote environmental objectives as well as checking unrestricted sprawl
The London Green Belt needs active conservation and enhancement. We recommend:
Carry out studies of each parcel of Green Belt land (eg following the example of the work Land Use Consultants did on the Coventry City Green Belt) and formulate conservation and enhancement policies.
Establish a London Green Belt National Park Authority, or similar body, to oversee the London Green Belt and encourage volunteer bodies to help with its management. This can include:
Land-owning trusts, like the National Trust and the RSPB
Conservation volunteers undertaking practical work (eg on woodland management, footpath maintenance and collecting litter)
[This is a shorter version of the video at the top of the page]
Should the London Green Belt have National Park Status?
We recommend the following objectives for the London Green Belt National Park. They are drawn from government guidance on national park objectives and NPPF green belt objectives:
to check the unrestricted sprawl of London and safeguard the countryside from encroachment
to promote sustainable use of the Green Belt
to promote understanding and enjoyment of the Green Belt by the public
to enhance the beneficial use of the Green Belt’s natural and cultural heritage, such as looking for opportunities to provide access; to provide opportunities for outdoor sport and recreation; to retain and enhance landscape visual amenity; to improve damaged and derelict land
to promote environmental objectives including biodivesity, fresh air, combating climate change, soil conservation and water management
The National Parks UK website uses the strapline ‘Britain’s Breathing Places’, possibly without knowing that the term ‘Breathing Places’ was introduced by John Claudius London in 1829 in connection with London’s landscape planning. Loudon did not wish to prevent sprawl but promoted green belts and was very interested in the use of green belt land. The NPPF list of green belt objectives includes biodiversity and should be extended to include a wider range of environmental objectives relating to air, water, soils and landform.
Concerned about water pollution and air pollution from coal fires, Raymond Unwin argued for London to be decentralised and for it to have an outer park belt, which he called a Green Girdle (diagrams from First Report, Greater London Regional Planning Committee, 1929). The top diagrams represent the Girdle of parkland and the lower diagrams show (in brown, lower right) possible areas for building development. Unwin was much concerned about the injustice consequent upon allowing one landowner to develop his property and telling an adjacent landower that his property must be protected from development. Unwin’s diagrams appeared exactly 100 years after Loudon’s diagrams and in the year the Landscape Institute was founded.
Should the London Green Belt be used for housing?
As mentioned in both the shorter and longer versions of the video, a number of people are making a case for housing development on green belt land. They do so because London’s economic success is causing an influx of people and a continued rise in house prices. One may think, as I do, that it would be better to halt the growth of London’s population. But while its growth continues there is a strong case for asking landscape architects to advise on how the urban landscape should change to meet the demand. The alternatives are:
Build on brownfield land so long as it is available. Most observers agree that London has a large area of brownfield land and that this should be used before any new land is allocated to housing.
Raise London’s residential density: Paris has a population of 21,498 people/km2. Greater London has a population density of 4,761 people/km2. Greater London’s density can be raised by building up and by building below street level. London can create a new green landscape by becoming a roof garden city.
Build on greenbelt land, with the type of consequence shown in the below illustrations, taken from the two videos.
When Loudon, Howard, Unwin and Abercrombie made the case for a London Green Belt they saw London as an unhealthy place to live, because of water pollution and air pollution by coal fires. The 1929 report, which adopted the term ‘green belt’ was sponsored by the Ministry of Health. London was seen as ‘overcrowded’ and in need of ‘decentralisation’.
Environmental opinion has shifted. Simon Jenkins argued, in 2015, that ‘We should be pulling out all the stops to create a green London’. He explains that: ‘If being green means using the Earth’s resources most efficiently, the greenest person in Britain is reading this article jammed in on a London Tube. He or she is going a short distance home to a shared block of flats, then out to a pub or restaurant whose staff, tables and ovens have supplied a hundred meals that day. That’s green. The reality is that the greenest places on earth are cities. The greenest place in Britain is central London, with the most people crammed into the smallest space. They thus minimise the use of transport and energy and maximise the use of buildings and infrastructure’.
The air and water pollution which beset London in the first half of the 20th century were largely dealt with by the start of the 21st century. But London has new environmental problems: motor vehicles are polluting the air and excessive use of drains is causing floods. Luckily, both problems could be solved by green landscape planning:
water can be detained, infiltrated and evapo-transpired by green roofs and greenways
greenways and green streets can be used for green transport, without using air-polluting motors
London can and should become a model for the adaptation of its metropolitan area to the green ambitions of the twenty-first century. Its landscape can be re-planned on eco-city principles:
environmental quality and economic productivity should be raised;
inputs and outputs of energy, water and materials are reduced.
In short, London needs a Green Belt, a Green Hat, a Green Coat and Green Leggings.
To become a sustainable ecocity, London needs a green hat and green walls, as well as a green belt (diagrams from Turner,T., City as landscape, 1996)
The CPRE calculated that in March 2015 the Metropolitan Green Belt was threatened with the following developments:
1. Bedfordshire: 13,000 dwellings; 121 hectares freight terminal and warehousing
2. Berkshire: 4,000 dwellings in Windsor and Maidenhead
3. Buckinghamshire: Expansion of Pinewood Studios; HS2 route
4. Essex: 9,100 dwellings in Basildon; 2,900 in Brentwood; 2,000 in Castle Point; 1,250 in Epping Forest district; 2,785 in Rochford
5. Hertfordshire: 34,000 dwellings across Dacorum, North Herts, St Albans and Welwyn Hatfield districts; 146 ha railfreight terminal
6. Kent: 450 dwellings near Sevenoaks
7. Redbridge: 2,000 dwellings
8. Surrey: 15,000 dwellings across Guildford, Reigate and Banstead, Runnymede and Woking; hotel and golf course
[The below illustrations show before and after housing images for housing in the green belt, as on the two videos].
Housing is the main threat to the London Metropolitan Green Belt – but there are other ways adapting London’s urban landscape to house its growing populationn
Radio 4’s Costing the Earth: Greening the Green Belt held a good discussion of green belt issues Wed 11 Mar 2015 and ended with the same conclusion as the above videos: much could be done to enhance the landscape, recreational and environmental qualities of London’s green belt.
The phrase ‘Lungs of London’, applied to its green public open spaces was first used by Humphry Repton’s patron (William Windham), who attributed it to one of Lancelot Brown’s patrons: William Pitt the Earl of Chatham. Windham used the phrase in a speech in parliament (on 30 June 1808) in which he argued against the crown having a right to build on Hyde Park. Dieter Helm makes a similar point point that selling a building plot in a St James’s Park might raise enough money for a new hospital. Like the Green Belt, ‘it is a public good in economic terms and it does not follow that the economically efficient thing to do’. The question we should ask is ‘How much could we get out of that land if we managed it properly?’
Hansard reported on Windham’s speech: ‘Against the plan he must enter his protest. He was not quite sure that his majesty possessed the right of disposing of the park in the way proposed. It would be a satisfaction to him to know how the crown and the public stood in that respect, and whether it had not given up the right which it was now intended to assert, in consequence of the payment from the Consolidated Fund. It was idle to suppose the plan would not go on if it were once begun, and that it would be limited to eight houses. These, houses would go on, co-operating with other houses, until it would be no longer a park. Indeed, it could scarcely be called so at present, for it was almost invested with houses. On one side there was Knightsbridge, grown into a considerable town; on another, Kensington. There was also a great town starting up on the northern side. Now, if in addition to these a number of houses should be erected, the power of vegetation would be completely destroyed. The park would no longer be that scene of health and recreation it formerly was. It was a saying of lord Chatham, that the parks were the lungs of London. He could devise no means more effectual for the destruction of these lungs than the proposed plan. The great increase of the metropolis might be attributed to the desire which every man felt to get as it were into the country; to go a little further towards it than his neighbour. He had heard of parks being decorated with grottos and temples, but here was a plan to decorate a park with houses; as if a citizen, who should leave Whitechapel on a Sunday evening to get a little fresh air, would feel much gratified when he arrived at Hyde-park to see nothing but houses, he would most probably think that he had seen enough of these in the course of his walk’.
London’s population was 3,188,485 in 1815 and in 2011 the population of Greater London and those counties adjacent to the green belt was 18,868,800. Then as now, it is ‘idle to suppose’ that if a small number of houses is allowed on one part of the green belt ‘it would be limited’ to a small number of houses. Simon Jenkins makes this point on the above Radio 4 programme: ‘At the moment we have to fight every inch of the way because the pressures from property developers to build on those sites is so intense…If you let one bit of green belt go, every lawyer, every planning lawyer hired by every property developer , will say “Ah, that’s a precedent” – and we’re finished. At the moment we’ve got a principle which is that the green belt is sacrosanct’. ‘No one is going to build houses for the poor in the green belt. They’re building executive homes there. That’s what they want to build’.
The Mayor of London launched a consultation on Sustainable Urban Drainage in 2015. Robert Holden and Tom Turner discuss the issues, in the above video, and make the following points:
London needs an integrated water plan for surface water drainage, river reclamation, water supply, aquifer recharge and protection against both sea and river flooding. This will involve both engineering and urban landscape design.
The Mayor should consider the establishment of a College of Advisors for Architecture, Engineering and Landscape following the example of the Netherlands College of Advisors. Dirk Sijmons was the landscape architect who led production of the Dutch National Waterplan in 2009
Landscape architects have a particular role to play in water and vegetation plans for roofs, streets, gardens, and greenspace.
Roofs: (1) It should be a planning condition that flat roofs in new development are vegetated (2) Existing flat roofs should be vegetated with financial support in the forms of grants or business rate and council tax rebate (so following German and Swiss precedent).
Streets and footpaths: London needs permeable paving and rain streets
Gardens: private gardens should incorporate rain gardens to detain and infiltrate surface water runoff
Greenspace: public and private greenspace should contribute to urban surface water management
Pilot projects: The first step towards the development of a London vegetation and water strategy should be a set of local pilot projects in varied geological, urban and topographic conditions. As green engineering projects they can be compared with the Mayor’s mini-Holland projects for making London a cycling city. The aim of the pilot projects would be to study and quantify the way in which changes to the urban landscape could affect stormwater detention, infiltration and evapo-transpiration as alternatives to disposing of water through the drainage system.
London Sustainable Urban Drainage Landscape Architecture
John Claudius Loudon’s 1829 proposal for ‘zones of country’, ‘breathing zones’ or ‘breathing places’ round London is the probable origin of Ebenezer Howard’s 1898 proposal for what became the London Metropolitan Green Belt, though there are older sources for the idea of restraining the city’s expansion. Loudon had an instrumental role in the adoption of the term ‘landscape architecture’ in English – and the principle that open spaces and built development should be planned together is important in the history of green belts and in their future management.
The history of London’s Green Belt. William Light’s plan for Adelaide (1838) was printed in Ebenezer Howard’s book on Garden Cities and connects with JC Loudon’s 1929 plan for Country Zones (also called Breathing Places) to be arranged as rings round London’s metropolitan area
Ebenezer Howard’s wrote more about what he called garden cities and the green belt, than Loudon had written in his 1829 plan for what he called Country Zones and Breathing Places – and there can be no doubt that it was Howard who popularised the idea. The two men were broadly liberal and their views on how London’s expansion should be planned were remarkably similar. The probable link between the two is William Light’s c1838 plan for Adelaide, as can be seen from the above diagram and from the below quotations. Loudon wrote that his plan could be applied to the ‘capital for an Australian union for example’. Howard wrote that ‘the city of Adelaide, as the accompanying sketch map shows, is surrounded by its “Park Lands”… It grows by leaping over the “Park Lands” and establishing North Adelaide. And this is the principle which it is intended to follow, but improve upon, in Garden City’ (Garden cities of tomorrow, p 129). William Light was Australia’s first Surveyor-General. Widely travelled and widely read, it is certainly possible that Light was familiar with London’s idea.
10 key points from JC Loudon’s 1829 ‘green belt’ plan
1. ‘our plan is very simple; that of surrounding London, as it already exists, with a zone of open country, at the distance of say one mile, or one mile and a half, from what may be considered the centre’
2. ‘the metropolis may be extended in alternate mile zones of buildings, with half mile zones of country or gardens, till one of the zones touched the sea… [so that] there could never be an inhabitant who would be farther than half a mile from an open airy situation’
3. ‘we have drawn the boundary lines as perfect circles; but in the execution of the project this is by no means necessary, nor even desirable’
4. ‘supposing a town to be founded on this principle, a capital for an Australian union for example; then we should propose to place all the government public buildings round the central circle’
5. ‘in the first and succeeding zones of country we would place the… churches, burial grounds, theatres, universities, parochial institutions, workhouse gardens, botanical and zoological gardens, public picture and statue galleries, national museums, public conservatories and tea-gardens…’
6. ‘in the zones of country we would contrive to have the hay, corn, straw, and cattle markets not far apart; and we would limit certain of the streets which proceed from the centre to the circumference… exclusively to the supply of these markets from the distant country,’
7. ‘in all the main streets, radiating and concentric, public conveyances, like the omnibuses in Paris, propelled by steam or otherwise, according to the improvements of the age and country, parcel carriers, letter carriers, &c, might be established for ready and economical intercommunication’
8. ‘under every street we would have a sewer sufficiently large, and so contrived as to serve at the same time as a subway for the mains of water and gas, and we would keep it in view that hot water, hot oil, steam, or hot air, may in time be circulated by public companies for heating houses; and gas supplied not only for the purposes of lighting, but for those of cookery, and some for manufactures’
9. ‘in the country zones we should permit individuals,on proper conditions of rent and regulations, to establish all manner of rural coffee-houses, and every description of harmless amusement; and the space not occupied by these establishments, and by the public buildings before mentioned, we would lay out as park and pleasure-ground scenery, and introduce in it all the plants, trees, and shrubs which would grow in the open air, with innumerable seats, covered and uncovered, in the sun and in the shade’
10. ‘we would rather see, in every country, innumerable small towns and villages, than a few overgrown capitals’
Older sources for the green belt concept
Frederick Osborn wrote that: ‘Approximations to the Green-Belt principle can be traced back far into history, the most distinct formulation being in More’s Utopia; but the route by which it reached Howard’s mind is uncertain.’ (p.21 in Osborn’s Preface to the 1965 MIT edition of Garden cities of To-morrow). Thomas More gives account of an ideal city in CHAPTER II. Of the Cities, Streets, Houses, &c. but it is far removed from the modern conception of a green belt: ‘The city of Amaurote standeth upon the side of a low hill, in fashion almost four square. For the breadth of it beginneth a little beneath the top of the hill, and still continueth by the space of two miles, until it come to the river of Anyder’.
Other authors have suggested alternative origins for the Green Belt idea, with the Wikipedia article on green belts (in 2016) mentioning the Old Testament, the Koran, and Elizabeth the First. The London Green Belt Council states that the green belt idea was first proposed by Sir William Petty in the seventeenth century. Petty (1623-1687) was a philosopher and a pioneer statistician. In an Essay on the Growth of the City of London he comments that ‘if the city double its people in 40 years, and the present number be 670,000, and if the whole territory be 7,400,000 [acres], and double in 360 years, as aforesaid, then… it appears that A.D. 1840 the people of the city will be 10,718,880, and those of the whole country but 10,917,389, which is but inconsiderably more. Wherefore it is certain and necessary that the growth of the city must stop before the said year 1840‘. Restraining the growth of London is an important green belt objective. It was one of Howard’s goals and it is retained in the National Planning Policy Framework). But it is only a part of the green belt concept, which also includes objectives relating to agriculture, orchards, woodlands, biodiversity, recreation and scenic quality. The origin of these ideas, and their integration with peripheral belts, is bast traced to John Claudius Loudon’s 1829 proposal for Zones of Country Places and Breathing Places. Compared to the nineteenth century, London suffers less from coal-fired pollution and much more from pollution by vehicular exhausts. Fresh air remains a very important public good, and something many consider when they view here to think about who will build their new home..
Elizabeth I Proclamation against new Buildings in the City of London 7th July 1580
Elizabeth I made this proclamation: And finally, to the preservation of her people in health… where there are such great multitudes of people brought to inhabit in small rooms… it must needs follow, if any plague or popular sickness should by God’s Permission enter among those multitudes… to the manifest danger of the whole body thereof. …. For Remedy whereof… her Majesty, by good and deliberate Advice of her Council … doth charge and straitly command all persons of what quality soever they be, to desist and forbear from any new buildings of any new house or tenement within three miles of any of the gates of the said city, to serve for habitation or lodging for any person, where no former house hath been known to have been in memory of such as are now living. And also to forbear from letting or setting, or suffering any more families than one only, to be placed, or to inhabit from henceforth in any house that heretofore hath been inhabited. Her intention was to completely stop the growth of London and her reason was that large and densely populated cities are unhealthy. She said nothing about the use of the land around London.
Elizabeth I issued a proclamation to stop any new houses being built within 3 miles of London
The above video questions whether Lancelot Brown one of the world’s great designers – as Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe (from 1:17 in the video below) speaks of ‘Capability Brown who one of the great designers in the world without a doubt’. Since Brown reputation went from sky-high in the 1780s to mud-low in the 1800s and back to sky-high in the late 20th century, the question needs to be asked. There are real problems in making the assessment: Brown’s drawings are disappointing and do not show changes to the landform; the original condition of the land on which Brown worked is unknown; most of Brown’s planting has changed; his lakes follow the lie of the land – not the curves of a drawing or an earth-moving machine. A review of the evidence and glances at 12 of his approximately 250 designs, leads me to conclude, in the above video, that Brown was ‘charming, talented, trustworthy, hard-working – and lucky – but not a creative genius’. My view is that Brown worked on some great projects, as well as some humdrum projects, and that the ‘rise and fall and rise again’ of his public reputation is best explained by an evolution in the common usage of the word ‘nature’.
In 2011 English Heritage put a Blue Plaque on Wilderness House at Hampton Court. It reads: Lancelot ‘Capability Brown’ 1716-1783 Landscape Architect lived here 1764-1783. I am happy about this, though Brown did not call himself a ‘landscape architect’ (the term dates from 1828) and nor did he call himself a ‘landscape gardener’. His usual term was ‘place-maker’ which, given the popularity of this term with urban designers, might be a useful name for the landscape profession (though Brown probably used it in OED sense 9(a). to mean ‘ a country house with its surroundings, the principal residence on an estate’). Since Brown designed both landscapes and buildings, the term ‘landscape architect’ suits him well. He also designed lakes and it is good for the landscape profession to emphasise its role in composing water, landform and plants with buildings and paving. Brown did little work on public and institutional projects, The Backs in Cambridge being a notable exception. But many of the places Brown designed are now open to the public under a range of access and ownership arrangements: public parks, golf courses, National Trust properties etc.
Was Lancelot Brown one of the world’s greatest landscape architects?
Twelve UK-based landscape architects explain how they see the landscape profession and why they enjoy being landscape architects. Dominic Cole, in the first interview, explains that ‘A landscape architect is the equivalent of an architect but for the outdoors. In the same way that an architect will manipulate internal space and create an envelope for a building, a landscape architect has the ability to create spaces outside – but not necessarily using building materials as such. Our building materials might be growing, they might be trees, they might be plants they might be soil – to create those spaces. So at its simplest (a landscape architect) is somebody who is able trained to manipulate space out of doors’.