On 24 July, the government released the long-anticipated revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
The Green Belt is a highly emotive subject. Press coverage has suggested that there has been a steady reduction in the extent of the Green Belt in recent years. Whilst this is not borne out by statistics (between 31 March 2016 and 31 March 2017 there was a decrease of less than 0.05%), negative press comment has, no doubt, contributed to the government's clearly stated intention to protect the Green Belt.
The Green Belt is essentially a policy for preventing urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open. Green Belt land does not, as the term would suggest, consist entirely of rolling green countryside that has been untouched by any form of development in the past. This is an important point, often overlooked by those campaigning to prevent any form of development on the Green Belt.
The NPPF makes it clear that Green Belt boundaries should only be altered where exceptional circumstances are fully evidenced and justified. In coming to the conclusion that an extension to the boundary is justified, the planning authority must be able to demonstrate that it has fully examined all other reasonable options for meeting its identified need for development. Extension of the boundaries is only likely to be acceptable if the strategy already:
If it is decided that Green Belt land should be released for development, the planning authority should first consider using that land which has previously been built upon and/or is well served by public transport.
The premise that inappropriate development in the Green Belt should only be approved in exceptional circumstances is carried through from the previous version of the NPPF. Burial grounds and allotments have been added to the list of exceptions to this general rule.
Otherwise the exceptions to the stringent rule that development on the Green Belt will only be permitted in exceptional circumstances is largely unchanged.
The policies set out in the NPPF are material considerations which should be taken into account in dealing with applications from 24 July 2018. However, the policies in the previous version of the NPPF will apply when examining plans which are submitted on or before 24 January 2019.
The government has committed to build more houses. However, it has made it clear that this is not to be at the expense of the Green Belt. The emphasis continues to be on building "the right houses in the right places". We will be looking at how housing need, the provision of affordable housing, and viability, are dealt with in our series of legal insights on the revised NPPF.
Contributor: Alexandra Holsgrove JonesThis publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at July 2018. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.