Out-Law News 1 min. read

Government publishes new guidance to reinforce green belt protection

Established green belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances under updated guidance published by the government.

The department for communities and local government (DCLG) has updated the planning practice guidance (PPG) to underline that the National Planning Policy Framework only enables changes to green belt boundaries by a local authority through the preparation or review of its Local Plan.

The guidance says that when a council assesses the availability and suitability of land to meet its housing need during Local Plan preparations, it should take account of any constraints such as green belt which "indicate that development should be restricted and which may restrain the ability of an authority to meet its need".

According to the guidance unmet housing need, including for traveller sites, is unlikely to outweigh the harm to the green belt and other harm to constitute the “very special circumstances” justifying inappropriate development on a site within the green belt.

"This government has been very clear that when planning for new buildings, protecting our precious green belt must be paramount," said communities secretary Eric Pickles in a statement.

"Local people don’t want to lose their countryside to urban sprawl, or see the vital green lungs around their towns and cities [used for] unnecessary development. Today’s guidance will ensure councils can meet their housing needs by prioritising brownfield sites, and fortify the green belt in their area," Pickles said.

"We have put Local Plans at the heart of the reformed planning system so councils and local people can now decide where development should and shouldn’t go," said planning minister Brandon Lewis.

Lewis said that the most recent official statistics show that green belt development is at its lowest rate since modern records began in 1989. Figures in a report published by construction industry analyst Glenigan in August showed that the number of homes granted planning permission on green belt land in 2013/14 has more than doubled since 2010/11.

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