Can I build on a Greenbelt?

Map of the green belt zones around London

Greenbelts exist to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built up areas

Greenbelts exist to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built up areas

Greenbelt architects

Of late, we've been busy behind the scenes beavering away on several projects  on greenbelts taking them through and past the planning process. Being based in a green belt area we thought we'd share some thoughts and tips on how we negotiated the planning maze and legislation surrounding greenbelts. 

The best starting point to consider is the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Here we can understand first why it's important to protect our greenbelts.

There are essential 5 core reasons.

  • 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

Any proposal will need to consider these points and address each of them if we are to achieve planning approval. Living and working in the greenbelt, I completely agree with each of these points and would hate to lose the character of our beautiful countryside and towns.  The core purpose of any project is to ensure that we are making a positive impact on it's context. With greenbelts, this aspect is purely focused upon.

In the NPPF there are a set of very specific criteria which discusses why a local authority would regard the construction of new buildings in a green belt  an exceptional circumstance to grant approval:

  1. Buildings for agriculture and forestry
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. the replacement of a building, provided the new building is in the same use and not materially larger than the one it replaces
  5. limited infilling in villages, and limited affordable housing for local community needs under policies set out in the Local Plan
  6. 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

When planning a proposal, your design team will have to demonstrate exceptional circumstances which relate to one or more of the above.

Our work has spanned across numerous greenbelt sites now and there's a plethora of legislative hurdles to negotiate. The best position for a client with a greenbelt site, is to have an experienced team of architects and potentially planning consultants. They'll be able to help you deliver a scheme which is carefully negotiated through pre-planning meetings and planning submissions to give your scheme the best chance of approval.