Barcelona Field Studies Centre

Barcelona's Green Belt

Barcelona's Green Belt
Barcelona's Green Belt

Barcelona's Green Belt is undeveloped or agricultural land surrounding the urban areas where development is heavily restricted by law. The purpose is to protect natural environments and wildlife, improve air quality, ensure that urban dwellers have access to countryside and protect the character of rural communities which might otherwise be absorbed by expanding suburbs and urban sprawl. Twelve Natural Parks have been established in the region and protected Green Corridors connect these together in a network that enables the free movement of species between them thus helping to conserve biological diversity.

In Catalonia, the first legal protection of a natural area dates back to 1928, when the Association of Catalonia promoted a law to protect the Montseny massif. However, it was not until the second half of the 20th century that a public policy of protecting natural areas was promoted by Barcelona Provincial Council (Diputación de Barcelona), mainly based on shared management between the municipal areas and with the participation of the inhabitants and users of the areas.

The 1963 General Plan proposed the establishment of 14 natural areas but it was not until 1972 that the policy to protect natural areas became effective and the Llei del Sòl (Law governing Land Use) led to the creation of six parks in 1975.

In the mid-1990s, the Green Ring (L’Anella Verda) project proposed a system of natural areas based on the connection of forests, agricultural areas and natural areas, and led to the creation of both new Parks and the interconnection between the new and existing ones. The aim was to increase the level of the environmental and landscape quality of the entire territory. As a result, the Barcelona Provincial Council and several Town Councils constituted six consortia, that are today the managers of twelve natural areas: Montseny, Sant Llorenç del Munt i l’Obac, Garraf, Montnegre-Corredor, Montesquiu, Olèrdola, Serralada de Marina, Serralada Litoral, Parc del Foix, Guilleries Savassona, Parc Agrari del Baix Llobregat and Collserola.

Laws governing the creation and status of the Green Belt

National Parks and Protected Spaces are created under the state Ley de Espacios Protegidos 1975. Under the 1977 Ley de Caz (Hunting Law) the following types of status may be determined:

  • Sitios Naturales de Interes Nacional (National Places of Interest)

  • Reservas Biologicas (Biological Reserves)

  • Refugios de Caz (Hunting Reserves)

  • Reservas Nacionales (National Reserves).

National and Natural Parks

The Catalonia Llei de Espais Protegits 1985 establishes the difference between National Parks and Natural Parks. This law declares the Natural Parks and National Reserves may be created by the Catalan Government (Generalitat) and exist and function entirely separately from the National Parks, created by the state. The law also decrees that the Generalitat may be the owner of the land or that local groups may promote actions to give protection to nature and the management then becomes the responsibility of the promoter.

Protection of Spaces of Natural Interest (PEIN)

The PEIN Plan (1992) establishes new Natural Parks and selects a number of other natural areas that link the Parks together to form a Green Ring around Barcelona. The Plan protects biological corridors connecting the twelve most important natural areas thus contributing to the preservation of wildlife diversity.

The 12 Natural Parks that anchor Barcelona's Green Ring network
Name Size (ha) Date
Parc Natural de Sant Llorenç del Munt i l’Obac 13,694 1972
Parc Natural del Montseny 30,120 1977
Parc del Castell de Montesquiu 547 1986
Parc de Collserola 8,000 1986
Parc del Garraf 12,376 1986
Parc del Montnegre i el Corredor 15,010 1989
Parc d’Olèrdola 608 1992
Parc de la Serralada Litoral 4,046 1992
Parc del Foix 2,900 1993
Parc de la Serralada de Marina 2,086 1997
Espai Natural de les Guilleries – Savassona 8,300 1998
Parc Agrari del Baix Llobregat 2,938 1998

Barcelona's Urban Sprawl