Ribbon development

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Example of a ribbon development
Polish village Dubiny, example of an old ribbon village

Ribbon development is building houses along the routes of communications radiating from a human settlement. Such development generated great concern in the United Kingdom during the 1920s[1] and the 1930s as well as in numerous other countries.

Increasing motor car ownership meant that houses could be sold easily even if they were remote from shops and other services. It was attractive to developers because they did not have to waste money or plot space constructing roads.

The practice became seen as inefficient use of resources and a precursor to urban sprawl, so a key aim for the United Kingdom's post-war planning system was to halt ribbon development. It led to the introduction of green belt policies.


Following the Industrial Revolution, ribbon development became prevalent along railway lines: predominantly in Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. A good example of this was the deliberate promotion of Metro-land[2][3] along London's Metropolitan Railway. Similar evidence can be found from Long Island (where Frederick W Dunton bought much real estate to encourage New Yorkers to settle along the Long Island Rail Road lines),[4] Boston[5] and across the American Midwest.[6][7][8]

It can also occur along ridge lines, canals and coastlines, the last occurring especially as people seeking seachange lifestyles build their houses where they can get the best view.

The resulting towns and cities are often difficult to service efficiently. Often, the first problems noticed by residents is traffic congestion, as people compete to move along the narrow urban corridor while ever more people join the ribbon further along the corridor. Urban consolidation is often a solution to encourage growth towards a more compact urban form.

Ribbon development can also be compared with a linear village, a village that grew along a transportation route, not as part of a city's expansion.

See also[edit]