The Green Belt Settlements background paper explains the background to the situation that arose in November 2009 concerning the policy approach within the Green Belt Settlements, as shown on the 2001 Local Plan Proposals Map, but that ceased to be applied when the Core Strategy was adopted in October 2008. Related documents are:
In 1944 the Greater London Plan proposed a Green Belt within which no new settlements would be allowed and where the expansion of existing communities would be very restricted. Post-war new towns have become established outside the area and although London has continued to develop the Green Belt has survived broadly intact.
Under the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act, County Development Plans were prepared which proposed a Green Belt slightly smaller than that contained in the Greater London Plan. In 1955 the Ministry of Housing and Local Government issued a Circular on Green Belts which extended the principle to cities other than London. The Circular asked local authorities to designate Green Belts, where desirable, in order:
The policy was soon widely accepted and gained widespread appeal not only to local authorities but also to the public. Green Belt policy probably enjoys even more widespread support today than it ever did, although it is not without its critics.
Government policy is currently set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (This link will open in a new window) (NPPF) which was issued in 2012. The NPPF explains that the fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open; the most important attribute of Green Belts is their openness. The PPG sets out the purposes of including land in a Green Belt:
Under the NPPF there is a presumption in favour of sustainable development. However within the Green Belt this presumption does not apply. Inappropriate development should not be approved except in very special circumstances. Inappropriate development is by definition harmful to the Green Belt. Very special circumstances will not exist unless the harm by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm to the Green Belt, is clearly outweighed by other considerations. This is a tough test and the applicant should demonstrate why permission should be granted. Whilst it is for the local planning authority to judge the special circumstances being put forward it would be unreasonable to give weight to a matter which national policy is unlikely to view as a very special circumstance. For example the fact that something can or cannot be seen should not be a determining factor. Planning applications for inappropriate development will, therefore, by their very nature, conflict with the development plan and if the Council wishes to grant permission the proposal must be treated as a departure from the development plan and referred to the Secretary of State.
Quality of the landscape
The quality of the landscape is not relevant to the continued protection of the Green Belt. Applicants may try to argue in support of proposals that land that is already degraded in some way is not worthy of continued protection. This is not a determining factor and the purposes of including land within a Green Belt are of paramount importance and should take precedence over land use objectives.
For more information on how Green Belt policy applies to particular types of development the policies in the Local Plan 2001 and the Core Strategy should be read. Supplementary planning guidance on the conversion of buildings in the Green Belt is also available.
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