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The Fringe-belt Phenomenon and Socioeconomic Change

J.W.R. Whitehand and N.J. Morton
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J.W.R. Whitehand: School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, BIS 2TT, UK,
N.J. Morton: School of Property, Construction and Planning, University of Central England, Perry Barr, Birmingham, B42 2SU, UK,

Urban Studies, 2006, vol. 43, issue 11, 2047-2066

Abstract: Fringe belts were long ago recognised as zones of spacious, often well-vegetated plots in relatively extensive use, which formed at the urban fringe during a hiatus in the growth of the built-up area and frequently became embedded within that area when it resumed its outward spread. Although rarely recognised as entities in planning documents, fringe belts have significance for both understanding and planning cities, not least because they have distinct physical characters and provide a frame of reference that articulates the physical make-up of an urban area in relation to its history. However, in recent decades in many countries, significant changes have taken place in the social and economic environments within which decision-making about fringe-belt plots has occurred. Among these changes in the UK have been the growing commercialisation of public services, such as higher education, health and leisure, many of which are strongly represented in fringe belts, and increasing encouragement from central government for the building of more dwellings within existing urban areas. At the same time, there has been increasing concern for the protection of sites of ecological significance. Detailed analysis of the Edwardian fringe belt in Birmingham, England, making use especially of development control records, reveals a strong tendency for decision-making to become more overtly economic, the increasing significance of financial payments associated with the granting of planning permission, a marked increase in the involvement of agencies remote from the fringe belt, greater economic exploitation of their land assets by charitable bodies and the increasing effectiveness of environmental lobbies. The imprint of the late 19th and early 20th centuries on the character of the fringe belt remains strong, but many fringe-belt plots are being subjected to increased pressure for change, including redevelopment for housing.

Date: 2006
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