National Planning Policy Framework

9. Protecting Green Belt land

Paragraphs 79 to 92

79. The government attaches great importance to Green Belts. The fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open; the essential characteristics of Green Belts are their openness and their permanence.

80. Green Belt serves five purposes:

  • to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas
  • to prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another
  • to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment
  • to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns
  • to assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land

81. Once Green Belts have been defined, local planning authorities should plan positively to enhance the beneficial use of the Green Belt, such as looking for opportunities to provide access; to provide opportunities for outdoor sport and recreation; to retain and enhance landscapes, visual amenity and biodiversity; or to improve damaged and derelict land.

82. The general extent of Green Belts across the country is already established. New Green Belts should only be established in exceptional circumstances, for example when planning for larger scale development such as new settlements or major urban extensions. If proposing a new Green Belt, local planning authorities should:

  • demonstrate why normal planning and development management policies would not be adequate
  • set out whether any major changes in circumstances have made the adoption of this exceptional measure necessary
  • show what the consequences of the proposal would be for sustainable development
  • demonstrate the necessity for the Green Belt and its consistency with Local Plans for adjoining areas
  • show how the Green Belt would meet the other objectives of the Framework

83. Local planning authorities with Green Belts in their area should establish Green Belt boundaries in their Local Plans which set the framework for Green Belt and settlement policy. Once established, Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances, through the preparation or review of the Local Plan. At that time, authorities should consider the Green Belt boundaries having regard to their intended permanence in the long term, so that they should be capable of enduring beyond the plan period.

84. When drawing up or reviewing Green Belt boundaries local planning authorities should take account of the need to promote sustainable patterns of development. They should consider the consequences for sustainable development of channelling development towards urban areas inside the Green Belt boundary, towards towns and villages inset within the Green Belt or towards locations beyond the outer Green Belt boundary.

85. When defining boundaries, local planning authorities should:

  • ensure consistency with the Local Plan strategy for meeting identified requirements for sustainable development
  • not include land which it is unnecessary to keep permanently open
  • where necessary, identify in their plans areas of ‘safeguarded land’ between the urban area and the Green Belt, in order to meet longer-term development needs stretching well beyond the plan period
  • make clear that the safeguarded land is not allocated for development at the present time. Planning permission for the permanent development of safeguarded land should only be granted following a Local Plan review which proposes the development
  • satisfy themselves that Green Belt boundaries will not need to be altered at the end of the development plan period
  • define boundaries clearly, using physical features that are readily recognisable and likely to be permanent

86. If it is necessary to prevent development in a village primarily because of the important contribution which the open character of the village makes to the openness of the Green Belt, the village should be included in the Green Belt. If, however, the character of the village needs to be protected for other reasons, other means should be used, such as conservation area or normal development management policies, and the village should be excluded from the Green Belt.

87. As with previous Green Belt policy, inappropriate development is, by definition, harmful to the Green Belt and should not be approved except in very special circumstances.

88. When considering any planning application, local planning authorities should ensure that substantial weight is given to any harm to the Green Belt. ‘Very special circumstances’ will not exist unless the potential harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm, is clearly outweighed by other considerations.

89. A local planning authority should regard the construction of new buildings as inappropriate in Green Belt. Exceptions to this are:

  • buildings for agriculture and forestry
  • provision of appropriate facilities for outdoor sport, outdoor recreation and for cemeteries, as long as it preserves the openness of the Green Belt and does not conflict with the purposes of including land within it
  • the extension or alteration of a building provided that it does not result in disproportionate additions over and above the size of the original building
  • the replacement of a building, provided the new building is in the same use and not materially larger than the one it replaces
  • limited infilling in villages, and limited affordable housing for local community needs under policies set out in the Local Plan
  • limited infilling or the partial or complete redevelopment of previously developed sites (brownfield land), whether redundant or in continuing use (excluding temporary buildings), which would not have a greater impact on the openness of the Green Belt and the purpose of including land within it than the existing development

90. Certain other forms of development are also not inappropriate in Green Belt provided they preserve the openness of the Green Belt and do not conflict with the purposes of including land in Green Belt. These are:

  • mineral extraction
  • engineering operations
  • local transport infrastructure which can demonstrate a requirement for a Green Belt location
  • the re-use of buildings provided that the buildings are of permanent and substantial construction
  • development brought forward under a Community Right to Build Order

91. When located in the Green Belt, elements of many renewable energy projects will comprise inappropriate development. In such cases developers will need to demonstrate very special circumstances if projects are to proceed. Such very special circumstances may include the wider environmental benefits associated with increased production of energy from renewable sources.

92. Community Forests offer valuable opportunities for improving the environment around towns, by upgrading the landscape and providing for recreation and wildlife. An approved Community Forest plan may be a material consideration in preparing development plans and in deciding planning applications. Any development proposals within Community Forests in the Green Belt should be subject to the normal policies controlling development in Green Belts.