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Green Belt Planning Policies, Issues and Opportunities

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) sets out the guidance and rules relating to the green belt

The NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) sets out the Governments planning policies. The NPPF states that “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.”

Photomontage of Code for Sustainable Homes Level 6 Self Build Home RIBA ArchitectsThe NPPF states that the five purposes of the Green Belt are:
– 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; and
– To assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land.

Paragraph 87 states that “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.” The document elaborates that new buildings are inappropriate unless they fall within a limited number of exceptions.

Green Belt and Open Countryside House Extensions and Home Remodelling

Unpicking the guidance and using creative thinking to create modern family homes

For extensions to existing properties within the Green Belt the NPPF states that “the extension or alteration of a building” is allowable “… provided that it does not result in disproportionate additions over and above the size of the original building”. In planning terms the key words are “disproportionate” and “original”.

It is suggested that different local planning authorities (LPA’s) deal with the term “disproportionate” in different ways when interpreting Green Belt or open countryside policies and the specific LPA policies need to reviewed and understood however as a typical guide a figure of 30% increase in floorspace from the original dwelling is not uncommon. Other LPA’s will consider footprint, external rather than internal floorspace or volume among other things as starting points when considering extensions in green belt.

In planning terms, the “original” dwellings means the building as it stood before the introduction of the Planning Act on 1st July 1948. Any later extensions (whether by planning approval or permitted development may not be included. In some cases we have found that houses have already been extended past the allowable figure meaning, in theory, that the planning officers wouldn’t accept any further extensions within the green belt or open countryside.

Self Build and Bespoke New Build or Replacement dwellings in Green Belt

The best of both worlds – Creating a new home in a beautiful rural setting?

For all “new” homes there are generally 5 main options for creating new homes within open countryside or Green Belt as stated in the NPPF:

– 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; or
– 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.

In addition there may be possibilities for:
– The conversion of existing buildings in open countryside; for more information please see Barn Conversions.
– Creating bespoke homes that meet the exceptional quality or innovative in nature requirements of Paragraph 55 of the NPPF to satisfy the “very special circumstances” caveat. For more information please see our dedicated page.

The infilling of site or redevelopment of brownfield sites in green belt or open countryside are very site specific and a detailed review and analysis would be required to ascertain the issues, possibilities and opportunities.

When looking at replacement dwellings, one of the key planning terms is “materially larger”. In addition the starting point is typically the size of the “existing” rather than “original” home, which provides some additional scope from extensions within the green belt. As with house extensions a starting point for replacement homes in open countryside is the internal floorspace however external footprint, volume, scale and massing, character of the area etc are all factors to be considered. Similarly to extensions to houses in green belt, in our experience different LPA’s have different approaches and requirements for new houses in green belt. Typically though we have found new homes proposing over a 15% increase from the existing dwelling is seen as being materially larger. Elements such as double height spaces, basements, permitted development, outbuildings, garden rooms etc can add further complication to the issues.

Hunter Architects & Planners Expert Involvement With Green Belt Projects

Green Belt projects can provide a fantastic opportunity to create functional and efficient homes set in beautiful countryside

Across the geographical areas that Hunter Architects generally work, a large proportion of projects fall within open countryside and Green Belt. This is particular of south Manchester and the northern half of the Cheshire East Council area, including around many of the most affluent areas of Wilmslow, Alderley Edge, Knutsford, Macclesfield, Prestbury etc

Hunter Architects & Planners have been involved with many challenging projects within open countryside and particularly Green Belt. By way of two brief examples:

For new build bespoke homes in green belt, we have previously obtained approval for a replacement dwelling which in its “original” configuration was only around 70 sq m. The house had been extended to around 90 sq m meaning it had been extended as much as the LPA would allow. Ultimately we obtained approval for a house of around 240 sq m (266% increase from existing and substantially more than the 15% the LPA initially considered acceptable.). There was also the potential for further extensions to this dwelling once completed, taking the total house past 300 sq m.

For house extensions in green belt, we have been involved with many projects ranging from 50% to over 300% increase from the “original house”.

Please note that the above comments are given as a simplistic over view of green belt and open countryside issues and should not be treated as specific advice. There is a plethora of case law which evolves and clarifies the issues including the various planning terms such as “materially larger” and “disproportionate”. Expert assistance should be sought at the earliest opportunity. Please Contact us to discuss your Green Belt project or for any enquiries relating to homes in open countryside.

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