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Copied from Gov site re planning practice guidance:
The Government attaches great importance to Green Belts. The fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open; the essential characteristics of Green Belts are their openness and their permanence.
Green Belt serves five purposes:
to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas;
to prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another;
to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment;
to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns; and
to assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land.
Once Green Belts have been defined, local planning authorities should plan positively to enhance the beneficial use of the Green Belt, such as looking for opportunities to provide access; to provide opportunities for outdoor sport and recreation; to retain and enhance landscapes, visual amenity and biodiversity; or to improve damaged and derelict land.