Ribbon development means building houses along the roads radiating from a town. Ribbon development generated great concern in the UK during the 1920s and 30s, as well as in numerous other countries.
Increasing motor car ownership meant that such houses would be salable even though they might be 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 antithetical to efficient use of resources and as a precursor to urban sprawl, meaning that 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.
Ribbon development can also occur along ridge lines, canals and coastlines, the latter especially occurring 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.