Can You Build On The Green Belt?

November 10th 2021

Getting planning permission can be hard but it's usually doable without too much fuss. One instance where it's harder than usual is if you are trying to build on Green Belt land.

For developers eyeing up some land to build on or self-builders who have a particular location in mind, this can be a big question.

In some cases, you may already have property on or near Green Belt land and need to find out whether you are able to extend it.

So, what actually is the Green Belt and can you even build on it at all? We've got the answers here.

What Is The Green Belt?

There are many misconceptions of what the Green Belt actually is so it's important we clear that up.

It's not necessarily even green as some might assume or an area of environmental importance like a National Park or Area of Outstanding National Beauty.

Rather they are designated areas surrounding some major cities in the UK where building is considered inappropriate barring some exceptions.

They first appeared after the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 gave local authorities powers to designate these zones. There's a number of reasons why they exist.

The main purpose of Green Belt land is to prevent urban sprawl -- cities continuing to grow and grow over time. In some cases, it's to stop two or more neighbouring towns from merging into one another.

It also encourages planning authorities to recycle existing derelict urban land, rather than build new developments in new locations.

The Green Belt isn't necessarily all of the surrounding countryside and in fact it only makes up a fairly small proportion of the British countryside as a whole. Other 'green' land that can be built on is called 'brownfield' land, confusingly.

If you'd like to know where the Green Belt land is in the UK, check out this interactive map.

Can You Build On Green Belt Land?

Some will feel that this policy is needlessly prohibitive and we'll look at some arguments for its reduction below, but there are good reasons for it to exist.

Assuming it stays the way it is, the question remains, 'what can I build?'

The general rule of thumb with Green Belt land is that any and all building developments are prohibited unless they are covered by exceptions in government policy.

The main exceptions are for agricultural and forestry buildings, some outdoor sports facilities and extensions or replacements of existing buildings.

So essentially, if you've already got a house on Green Belt land you should be able to get an extension built or even another building built on your land without too much difficulty.

You will still have to go through the usual planning process and may even face some opposition but many local councils have become more lenient when it comes to the planning process.

Of course, it may that the council itself or a private developer wants to build on this land.

How Councils Can Get Things Built On Green Belt Land

In some cases, the local authority of an area will have a desire to build on Green Belt land. This may be because of an increased demand for housing.

Typically, there have been a couple of ways that developers can do this.

The first is by actually getting rid of or replacing parts of the Green Belt. They would do this through 'swapping' the desired portion of land with another area of 'brownfield' land that would then become protected.

In order for this to happen, the developers would still have to prove that there is a large need for this new housing, that they have used the available and appropriate 'brownfield' land and have even considered whether neighbouring councils can meet there housing need.

The other way that an authority or developer may build on Green Belt land is by redeveloping existing built on land such as farming or industrial buildings.

If these buildings are no longer in use and the impact of the new development on the surroundings is going to be no different to the ones that are already there then permission may be granted.

Other Ways To Build On Green Belt Land

There are a number of other exceptions to the policy and the only way of finding out whether your development falls under these is by consulting the people in the know.

One area of exception is for affordable housing. This is when an undeniable need for increased affordable housing can clearly be demonstrated.

Elsewhere, if it can be shown that a certain development would result in significant benefit to the surrounding land or area then it may be allowed.

One example of this is what's known as a 'Paragraph 79' house. This is where the design of a particular house is so exceptional, outstanding or innovative that it would actually enhance the setting it is in. This usually only applies to single dwellings but may tick the box if you are planning a 'Grand Design' of your own, for example!

Information about the various exceptions can be found in the National Planning Policy Framework but it may also help to enlist the services of a planning consultant.

The Argument For Allowing More Developments On Green Belt Land

Having said all that there are some that argue the whole Green Belt land thing is a nuisance and that there are good reasons to at least partially do away with the policy.

These include the very real demand for housing, particularly in places like London which is contained by the biggest Green Belt in the country.

Some would argue that the Green Belt hasn't helped the environment or decreased the amount of building, it's just pushed towns out further.

The commuter belt which is cut off from London by the Green Belt grows all the time and means that millions of people are commuting long distances to get into London. If this didn't exist, these commuters might actually have less far to travel and cause less pollution.

As well as this the land in many cases has no inherent beauty and is often just scrubland or empty flatlands that could be better used for building developments.

Ultimately the demand is not going away and as house prices increase in the inner city, more lower cost options need to be made available.

If you're planning a building project and have managed to get planning permission, you're going to need the bricks to build it.

That's where we come in. Be sure to get in touch and we can help you out.