First Green Belt land approved
Unlike the Green Belt action in the 1950s, when land was protected from development by being designated for agricultural or similar use only, the concept in 1929 was for land to be available to the masses for active recreation. The idea was far from new: the Metropolitan Open Spaces Act 1877 gave authorities the power to purchase land to that effect within the capital; and the 1906 Open Spaces Act sought to address the relentless creep of urban development and the accompanying infill that was robbing the lower ranks of society of what would now be called 'green spaces'.
A major concern behind the discussions was the idea that young people with nowhere to expend their energy, to be challenged by participation in sports and vigorous pastimes, would sink into delinquency. Plus ca change.
The main name associated with the movement at this time was Raymond Unwin, one of the designers of Hampstead Garden Suburb, and a major authority on planning. His report - "Open Spaces" - to the Greater London Regional Planning Committee suggested there be seven acres of playing field space for every thousand city residents, though it was intended that these spaces be within the city.
The plan that came out of that committee in 1929 included a 'green girdle' surrounding the city, an idea whose time would come a quarter of a century later. A concrete manifestation of the open spaces ideal came about with the purchase of land near Hendon on February 4 1929 for such an end, land that could be deemed to be the first specific green belt acquisition.
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