Green Belt, threats and opportunities

27 / 03 / 2018

“In this crowded island we must not build without given careful thought to where we build…that big towns are restrained from sprawling haphazardly into the countryside…”

These were some of the reasons underpinning the introduction of the green belt in 1955.

Housing Crisis

The main political parties have accepted that England suffers from a housing crisis and the government has accepted that the acute shortage of housing means that some 300,000 new homes are required to be built every year to provide homes which are “affordable” to the general public.  Those in the industry responsible for delivering these homes estimate that some 45% of this housing need is in London and the South East.

Local Plan

Local planning authorities are required to assess the need for housing in their area and identify where and when those new homes will be delivered.  Failure to do so means the local authority cannot meet its housing requirements and would not have sound local plans to protect them against unplanned development in the countryside/green belt.

Planning Policy

The fundamental principles of preventing the restricted sprawl and safeguarding the countryside have  been maintained since the 1950s. The basic overriding rule is that development on the green belt is not permitted unless “very special circumstances” exist to justify such exception.

In recent months the London Mayor has published his London Plan and the government has published its proposed revision to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Changes afoot

There is the possibility now that in the event that the development plan is out of date and the planning authority has not delivered sufficient numbers of housing that exceptions can be made on previously developed land on the green belt if either affordable housing or Starter Homes are provided and there is no substantial harm to the openness of the green belt.

In addition local planning authorities will be required to identify and set out the ways in which the impact of removing land from the green belt can be offset through compensatory improvements to the environmental quality and accessibility of the green belt. The simple fact of setting out offset possibilities may provide new opportunities which until now did not exist.  The key is for landowners and developers to seek de-allocation of green belt through the local plan process and not wait until they are ready to submit planning applications.