History of Edinburgh's Greenbelt

The quality of the countryside surrounding Edinburgh has long been recognised. In the 18th and 19th centuries, wealthy merchants escaping the grime and squalor of the city, together with wealthy landowners who needed access to Scotland’s seat of power, built their country estates close to the city. As a consequence, a major part of the current greenbelt area is taken up by these country houses, their designed landscapes and tenanted farms. In the last century, numerous golf courses were established around the urban fringe, providing a further buffer to urban expansion.

Recognising the importance of this asset and the growing pressure from development, in 1957 the Edinburgh Green Belt became a designated area to control urban growth, protect farmland and to conserve the setting of the city.

The protection of the greenbelt from inappropriate development is the responsibility of the three local authorities through the statutory planning process, although this process does not deal with the management of the land which is largely in private ownership.

The designated greenbelt has recently been revised in the Edinburgh & Lothians Structure Plan 2015, which received the approval of Scottish Ministers in June 2004. In addition to the structure plan, the greenbelt area is covered by a considerable number of local plans prepared by each of the local authorities.

The current economic boom within the Lothians has greatly increased demand for the release of greenbelt land, for transport, industrial and housing development. The new Structure Plan and associated Local Plans attempt to reconcile the many competing demands on the greenbelt and provide the statutory planning framework.