Expert advice - planning permission in a green belt

There are often misunderstandings of the type of renovation work that can that be done on a Green Belt, which is enough to put some people off creating their dream project. 

We speak to Roy Speer from Speer Dade Planning Consultants, who sheds some light on what a Green Belt is and what you need to look out for if you are looking to renovate on a Green Belt. 

What is a Green Belt? 

Green Belt is a statutory planning designation which applies to certain areas of land around cities. The term should not be confused with ‘greenfield’, which means just land that is not built on. Green Belt is defined in council planning policy documents. The purposes of Green Belt are to check urban sprawl, prevent towns merging, safeguard countryside, preserve the setting of historic towns and assist urban regeneration.

Why is obtaining planning permission challenging in a Green Belt?

The whole purpose of Green Belt is to prevent most new or additional building and that objective is usually applied very strictly. Alterations to existing buildings would not necessarily be difficult.

Has there been a change in the government’s planning policy over the past few years within the Green Belt?

Whilst there have been some relatively minor tweaks in national Green Belt policy over the years, the fundamentals have remained fairly consistent. This has been the case under successive governments. Bear in mind, local planning policies also apply and these can be more susceptible to change than national policy.

Is there any additional paperwork that is required when applying for planning permission in a Green Belt?

No additional paperwork is required for planning applications in Green Belt. However, supporting statements accompanying applications for new buildings are likely to need to address Green Belt policy.

Is there any other preparation that you would advise before seeking planning approval in a Green Belt?

Where new or additional building is concerned, Green Belt policy needs to be considered. This can be complicated and difficult to understand. Depending on the scale and nature of a new building proposal, it is often sensible for people thinking of applying for permission to consult the council’s planning officers or a professional before committing large sums of money to the project.

Are there any types of project that are permitted in a Green Belt area?

There are permitted development rights for householders which allow a range of extensions, outbuildings and work on and around houses to be carried out without having first to apply for planning permission from the council. Whilst a planning application might not be required, it is often sensible to obtain formal confirmation of that from the council in advance. There are also permitted development rights to convert buildings in certain uses to homes, subject to a prior approval process. Permitted development rights are the same in Green Belt as they are outside.

Categories of work requiring planning permission which are not generally discouraged in Green Belt include extension or alteration provided it does not result in disproportionate additions over the size of the original building, replacement of a building provided the use is the same use and it is not materially larger than the one being replaced, infilling in villages, limited infilling or re-development of previously developed (brownfield) land and re-use of buildings of permanent and substantial construction.

Are there any particular styles and materials that work well in a green belt?

Green Belt policy is not concerned primarily with design. Unobtrusive new building which maintains openness is more likely to find favour.

Do you have any other advice when applying for planning permission in a green belt? 

Find out whether your project does require a planning application. Check whether your property is actually within designated Green Belt and understand the restrictions likely to apply in your area before embarking on a project.

Published: March 6, 2019

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