UK planning permission for Green Belt land is often difficult and requires special expertise. There are special cases for approval of schemes in the green belt for new build houses, extensions and outbuildings.
The green belt is based on a ring of protected countryside where urbanisation should be resisted. It is designed to control and limit urban growth. Considering this it would be thought that building on the green belt is not allowed. That being said it is not impossible. The rules around building on green belt land are complex and you need to understand the rules that apply.
In this article I will outline the law and the processes involved in building on the green belt.
In 2018 the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) published guidelines aimed at protecting the green belt. The ministry for Housing, communities and local government stated that councils should prioritise brownfield sites for redevelopment; its guidance stated that for any development on the green belt the NPFF must be applied thoroughly. In other words any housing land availability assessment must include;
Sites of Special Scientific Interest
Areas of outstanding natural beauty
In 2016 the Government enacted a policy that enabled councils who have demands on housing to free up areas for development in return for a separate area of land; this means that councils could swap other areas of land such as low grade agricultural lands rather than just brownfield sites. This could enable developers to access land that would target areas of need. A relatively small area of land can have a high impact.
Bare in mind public endorsement and political will is needed to open up the greenbelt land. There is also the question of price as Landowners want the best deal.
The scheme means there is no net loss to the Greenbelt and successful examples of this scheme.
The NPPF states that local planning authorities should not approve of any building proposal but for the following exceptions.
- Buildings that aid sustainable developments
- Buildings that are used for forestry or agricultural uses
- Facilities associated with recreation and outdoor sports
- Facilities for cemeteries
- Extensions to existing buildings (as long as they are proportionate and in keeping with character)
- The replacement of a building
- Limited affordable housing
- Limited infilling in villages
“Inappropriate development is by definition harmful to the Green Belt and should not be approved except in special circumstances”.
(NPPF paragraph 145)
To get planning permission to build on green belt land you have to submit a strong case of 'special circumstances' which will be balanced against any harm to the green belt.
The exception to this is limited infilling in villages. These are sites within and/or very close to built up areas which may be developed if not for the status of green belt land. These sites are more sustainable and have their own infrastructure and transport links.
This may not necessarily apply to new detached residential outbuildings such as garages.
A residential outbuilding will be classed as an extension if located within 5 metres of the main dwelling house. The outbuilding will count towards the total volume of the house and must still not result in an increase in the volume of the property as discussed above.
Outbuildings demolished and less than 5 metres from the main house will be deducted from the overall volume if they were built at the same time as the original property or before 1948.
The erection of any residential outbuildings more than 5 metres from the main house is unlikely to be classed as an ‘extension’ and therefore will constitute unacceptable development in the Green Belt and may not be permitted.
While rules surrounding this strategy can be complex, many people have achieved their project through this strategy with a skilled Architect, if you are in doubt about your project gaining permission, book a free consultation with us.
Another popular route is the conversion of existing buildings on a green belt site to include required residential space for those who run an agricultural business on a green belt site (for more information, see Class Q).
This can often be seen in relation to many barn conversion projects seen in the green belt as these are normally the most suitable agricultural buildings existing on the site prior.
It is important to note that the site must comply with certain rules if it is to be acceptable, for instance the site must be solely for agricultural use, below 3 dwelling house units and is occupied under an agricultural tenancy. Make sure to consul an architect and/or planning consultant to be aware of all the particular requirements and challenges of your site.
If the home is isolated then one must argue special circumstances. This could be the exceptional outstanding quality and design of the building, it could raise standards in the area given its high architectural standard. Design can be subjective, therefore councils should have proposals, such as design review arrangements to ensure the high standards of design (particularly according to them). This could be done though an architects panel.
To achieve planning permission you should propose that you will integrate cutting edge technology in your design of the highest standard and in keeping with the landscape. It should be exemplary and innovative. In short to argue 'special circumstances' you have to propose something very special. Try googling 'nppf 79 houses' or 'nppf 55 houses' for some examples.
So there is opportunity in the future of development in some green field sites allowing councils to build smaller starter homes; the Government has set out plans to relax some of the rules on development on green belt land yet overall the land is still protected by law. In the plans we have now developers would be allowed to build on a small scale which would be 20% cheaper than a regular house.
Recently I have had clients approach me about greenbelt land they have been intending to purchase which promises 'new build housing' with misleading imagery and promises about the land. This has also been picked up by local news and is an ongoing problem with land sales currently.
If you are in any doubt about the potential of any land, consult an architect or planning consultant, many of these professionals will give you the honest answers quickly on the phone free of charge. If you are still having difficulty, we offer this free service.
This issue affects the South East in a big way, it is worth knowing all the current rules and processes if you plan to build on Green belt land. Book a free consultation to see whether your project is possible and the best strategy for you.