With the current ‘debate’ about the Green Belt in the UK, I thought it was interesting to see how the Green Belt was viewed in a book about business management and more specifically systems management, rather than by Town Planners or developers. I found this in ‘The Fifth Discipline – the art and practice of the learning organisation. Peter M Sence. Century Press. 1997’, pages 66-67.
‘Many European cities have avoided the problem of crime, entrenched poverty, and helplessness that affect so many American cities because they have forced themselves to face the balances that a healthy urban area must maintain. One way they have done this is by maintaining large “green belts” around the city that discourage the growth of suburbs and commuters who work in the city but live outside it. By contrast, many American cities have encouraged steady expansion of surrounding suburbs, continually enabling wealthier residents to move further from the city centre and its problems. (Impoverished areas today, such as Harlem in New York and Roxbury in Boston were originally upper-class suburbs)’.
We need to take account of the fact that this was written in the 1990s, and there has been somewhat of a renaissance in some inner cities, so that some areas which started off wealthy, went through a period of decline and poverty have now began to be recolonised by the well-off, with the poorer residents being pushed out. However, the basic premise still holds: having a Green Belt forces us to address issues and problems rather than just ignore them or leave the solving of problems to someone else.
Making it easy for the wealthy to leave behind the problems of an inner city, whilst still being able to exploit a city’s advantages (often without paying towards them) tends to make it easier for the better off (and the Government) to ignore the issues which caused the problems in the first place: a situation which is not healthy for society as a whole; it being widely recognised that segregated cities are not well functioning cities and can actually become dysfunctional. Allowing the reverse to happen, with the wealthy in the city and the less-wealthy in the suburbs, is just as wrong and also ignores the underlying. and integrated, problems which have to be addressed.
I am not saying that in specific areas and situations the Green Belt does not require rationalisation, and its existing borders must remain sacrosanct in every case, but the approach which some are advocating is ignoring the total system and thus not addressing the actual issues. I can’t help but agree that having a strong Green Belt policy may force ‘us’ to address issues and problems in an integrated and holistic way rather than just ignore them or leave the solving of these problems to someone else.