Photo credit: Rayner Builders
Designed to control urban sprawl and protect the natural environment, green belts are found across the UK. They’re beloved public spaces but when it comes to development, restrictions can be tight.
Looking for information on how to secure planning permission on green belt land? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how to navigate the red tape, and explore some different strategies to help your green belt development application get the green light.
Before we get started, let’s take a moment to explore the history of green belts in the UK. The term was coined by English social activist Octavia Hill in 1875, as part of her petition to save the Swiss Cottage Fields in Hampstead from development. While her campaign was unsuccessful, her philosophy of "open spaces for all” inspired the foundation of The National Trust in 1895.
Today, green belts continue to play an important role in preventing urban sprawl and preserving the picturesque British countryside. They represent one of the highest levels of protection within the national urban planning system and while this does make development challenging, it’s not impossible.
If you have a vision for green belt land, these pathways will help you navigate the process. Our goal? To create a solution that matches your development goals while respecting the green belt philosophy to protect the "life-enhancing virtues of pure earth, clean air and blue sky" that Miss Hill valued so much.
One of the most straightforward ways to develop green belt land is to remove it from the protected zone. Under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), local planning authorities have the discretion to remove land from the green belt where "exceptional circumstances” exist.
For example, an “exceptional circumstance” may include a shortage of land for new homes. While promising, this pathway can be highly competitive. Success hinges on promoting your site as a smart and sustainable choice for development.
From centuries-old barns to abandoned grain silos, converting agricultural buildings can be a clever way to overcome green belt development restrictions. The demolition of agricultural buildings on green belt land is often prohibited. However, under Class Q of the General Permitted Development Order, residential conversions may be approved. With the right architectural insight on your side, even the most rundown pastoral structures can be reimagined as beautiful, functional homes.
Applying for planning permission from infill development angle is another option. Also known as backland development, the process describes the development of vacant or under-utilised land close to developed urban areas. The logic is to release land to developers without compromising the integrity of the green belt.
Infill development applications can be a great way to secure planning permission within designated green belts. However, the approval process can be highly subjective and is often at the discretion of local planning authorities.
For the best chance of success, your application should be thoughtful and sensitive to the unique needs of the community. It should protect the integrity of the green belt and respect the existing pattern of development in the area.
This approach calls on local authorities to consider “very special circumstances” when approving or denying green belt development applications. You’ll need to prove your project is unique and can only be realised on the specific site in question.
A shortage of housing land in the local area is one angle. But it’s not always enough to constitute "very special circumstances." Success is typically higher when the "very special circumstance" is something like the restoration of a heritage-listed building within a green belt area.
Paragraph 80 (formerly known as Paragraph 79) projects take advantage of an exemption clause in the NPPF. Also called the country house exemption clause, it helps push through proposals that would otherwise be refused and is especially useful when developing green belt land.
To qualify for approval, a project must be “of exceptional quality” and “truly outstanding or innovative”. The NPPF states it must reflect “the highest standards in architecture” and “help to raise standards of design more generally in rural areas”. The property must also “significantly enhance its immediate setting, and be sensitive to the defining characteristics of the local area.”
These types of builds are generally architect-designed with a luxurious feel. They champion living spaces that exist in harmony with the natural landscape and are often featured in publications like Grand Designs. For example, the conversion of Underhill House, a 300-year-old stone structure located in The Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, into an eco-friendly Passivhaus was approved under the Paragraph 80 exemption.
In most cases, securing planning permission on green belt land is a complex process laced with hurdles. Approval often depends not only on building a strong case to convince local planning authorities, but also a deep understanding of local planning systems, politics and community dynamics. This is where it pays to enlist the help of an expert architectural practice.
At CODA Bespoke, we underpin every planning permission application with a commitment to protecting the British green belt network. We understand the delicate balance that exists between safeguarding green spaces, addressing the need for housing and helping clients create their dream homes.
Many of our projects are approved under the Paragraph 80 exemption. This requires an in-depth understanding of local planning systems, as well as a commitment to the highest standards of design and innovation.
Our in-house team of planning consultants work tirelessly to create convincing applications that showcase the exceptional qualities of every project. We also have a wealth of experience working closely with local councils and planning authorities, including a proactive approach to negotiations. It’s this commitment to both our clients and the British green belt network that helps us achieve a high level of success for green belt applications.
Ready to build? Contact us today to explore how we can help you secure planning permission for your green belt land project and create your dream home.