The protection of rural lands in inter-urban breaks is a goal linked with urban containment. Inter-urban breaks and city greenbelts provide a setting for many regional services that support urban areas and buffer incompatible land uses. They also protect a range of landscape and environmental values. Cities often follow radial development patterns spreading from the city centre along transport infrastructure and before filling in the spaces between these corridors. One of the issues of protecting inter-urban breaks from development is that they are vulnerable to new infrastructure demands such as road and rail networks. Developing these networks through non-urban land is significantly less expensive and once these corridors are established there are further development pressures on the adjacent land.
The expansion of the commuter belt has led to an increase in demand for detached housing on urban fringes. Population growth and a trend to smaller household size have also put pressure on the urban fringe and resulted in greenfield developments both in Australia and overseas.
Strong planning measures are needed to counter this disparity and prevent the incremental spill of urban land uses into rural areas. An urban footprint boundary is one mechanism that has been utilised in Australia and overseas. Legislating an urban footprint boundary helps to prevent property speculation inflating land prices in inter-urban breaks and focus investment into urban areas.
This literature review identifies some of the factors driving urban expansion into rural land surrounding cities and a range of mechanisms that have been employed internationally to protect inter-urban areas from development.