What is the purpose of Green Belts?
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) says the purposes of green belts are to:
- Check the unrestricted sprawl of large built up areas
- Prevent neighbouring towns from merging
- Safeguard the countryside from encroachment
- Preserve the setting and special character of historic towns
- Assist urban regeneration by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land.
Can Green Belts be changed?
National policy makes clear that established Green Belt boundaries should be altered only in exceptional circumstances and only when a local plan is being prepared or reviewed. But preparing a new local plan is not, of itself, an exceptional circumstance justifying alteration to a green belt boundary. See case law from Gallagher Estates Ltd & Anor v Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council  para 125
Neighbourhood plans cannot seek to extend green belt boundaries or allocate areas of land for development within existing green belts.
What can happen in Green Belts?
Paragraph 89 of the NPPF specifies categories of development which local planning authorities should not regard as “inappropriate” in the Green Belt. It states:
“A local planning authority should regard the construction of new buildings as inappropriate in Green Belt. Exceptions to this are:
- buildings for agriculture and forestry;
- provision of appropriate facilities for outdoor sport, outdoor recreation and for cemeteries, as long as it preserves the openness of the Green Belt and does not conflict with the purposes of including land within it;
- the extension or alteration of a building provided that it does not result in disproportionate additions over and above the size of the original building;
- the replacement of a building, provided the new building is in the same use and not materially larger than the one it replaces;
- limited infilling in villages, and limited affordable housing for local community needs under policies set out in the Local Plan; or
- limited infilling or the partial or complete redevelopment of previously developed sites (brownfield land), whether redundant or in continuing use (excluding temporary buildings), which would not have a greater impact on the openness of the Green Belt and the purpose of including land within it than the existing development.”
Planning on the Doorstep: The Big Issues – Green Belt
Green Belt continues to be a huge issue for councils and communities across the country; an issue that councillors face regularly on the doorsteps of their electorate. This advice note from the Local Government Association and the Planning Advisory Service looks at the reality of Green Belt, how planning process works with Green Belt issues and the potential inclusion in development plans.
Case Law – See Landmark Chambers Section 9 – Protecting Green Belt land