A Practical Guide to Development in the Green Belt

There are 6 main steps to consider when a proposed development lies within a Green Belt. We’ve provided a practical guide to considering a proposal against these steps whether you’re a developer or a fellow town planner, along with a simple downloadable FLOW CHART.

This guide will give you an understanding of what a Council or Planning Inspector will look at when determining a planning proposal within a Green Belt.  Green Belt issues are complex so if you’re looking to progress a proposal within the Green Belt you may need the assistance of an experienced Town Planner.

People sometimes confuse Green Field (i.e. land which has not been built on) with Green Belt, people often think a site is Green Belt purely because its not developed on, this is inaccurate and Green Field development does not need to consider the following steps.  A Council’s Policy Plan should have Green Belt allocations clearly shown.

STEP 1: Is the Development Inappropriate?

In considering planning applications for development in the Green Belt unless a proposed development falls within specified categories (paragraphs 146-147 of the National Planning Policy Framework (the Framework)), development will constitute inappropriate development in the Green Belt. Inappropriate development in the Green Belt can only be justified where there are very special circumstances to override the harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm caused by the proposed development.

Be aware that even if a proposed development is not inappropriate development in the Green Belt, that does not mean that it must be granted planning permission. It may be unacceptable in planning terms, when assessed against non-Green Belt development policies

STEP 2: Should effects on openness be further considered?

Impact on openness (visual and spatial) is implicitly taken into account in Step 1 categories unless there is a specific requirement to consider the actual effect on openness. Therefore, for those exceptions within paragraph 145 where the effect of the development on openness is not expressly stated as a factor in evaluating inappropriateness, there is no requirement to assess the impact of the development on the openness of the Green Belt.

If the development is ‘inappropriate’ you should consider what the effect would be on openness, if this has not already been considered an integral part of considering whether a development type is inappropriate.

STEP 3: Would there be any other harm?

As with any development proposal non-Green Belt issues should be considered.  A proposal should be determined in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise. Check the development plan to assess your scheme against adopted policies.

STEP 4: Are there any ‘other considerations’ which weigh in favour of the development?

‘Other considerations’ do not have to be rare or uncommon to be special.  There is no restriction on what might be considered as an ‘other consideration’.  Issues could include:

  • personal circumstances (for example relating to accommodation, health, education, or family life);
  • the existence of a fallback position – for example, permitted development rights or an extant planning permission;
  • visual or environmental improvements – for example, the removal of existing buildings might be argued to improve appearance and/or increase openness;
  • economic benefits;
  • meeting a need for a particular type of development (for example, a rural worker’s dwelling, tourist accommodation, housing, telecommunications equipment etc); or
  • the lack of a suitable site for the development outside the Green Belt.

STEP 5: Apply the Green Belt Balancing Exercise

This stage is about balancing the combined weight of any ‘other considerations’ against the totality of the harm to ascertain if the weight of the ‘other considerations’ ‘clearly outweighs’ the harm.  This balancing exercise is one of judgement.

STEP 6: Do ‘very special circumstances’ exist?

If the ‘other considerations’ do not clearly outweigh the totality of the harm, ‘very special circumstances’ cannot exist. The Framework is clear that ‘substantial weight’ should be given to any harm to the Green Belt and therefore it’s not sufficient for ‘other considerations’ to merely outweigh the harm.

How can we help with a Green Belt application?

If all this is making your head hurt then it might be something you want to get help with. Although we’ve provided this practical guide we know the process can take you into complex areas of planning and may be something that you wish to seek assistance with.  A town planner can help you through this process, take a look at our blog on When to Hire a Town Planner and our download on choosing a Town Planner.

If you need any help with the application process then please get in touch.


Related Content:

Take a look at our eBook on Application Process for more details on the planning process.

Knowing your options should you receive a refusal for your planning proposals is important, guess what…we’ve covered this in an eBook about Appeals.

practical guide to green belt development