Green Belt in Cheap Sell Off? Under-the-Counter Cooperation!

The Castle Point Local Plan2016 attempts to appease the majority of those residents most concerned about the protection of the Borough’s Green Belt, however the Examination of the Plan may be conducted under pressure from government.

Westminster politicians “should not stand in the way” of councils who propose green belt development, providing “all the options” have been considered. 

Green belt swaps allow a council to suggest some protected land is freed up for development, often to help meet demand in the housing market. 

In return, a separate area of land is proposed for new protections, meaning the total amount of green belt land does not fall.”


A Telegraph report suggests that those local authorities struggling with allocating development land outside of the Green Belt, may well be advised to release some Green Belt land and, presumably under the Duty to Cooperate, “gain” some Green Belt from elsewhere or from a neighbouring authority.

This is not something new. Already the NPPF in Paragraphs 81 and 82 indicate this potential;

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; and
  • show how the Green Belt would meet the other objectives of the Framework.

This does call into question the sentiment behind the Minister’s thinking. Castle Point council have stated that all of the borough’s Green Belt fulfils the “Function” of Green belt in some way.

To release one area and “swap” the designation with an alternate green field area calls into question, why the alternative area was not already designated as Green Belt!

This would infer that a newly designated area of Green Belt would be somewhat lacking in obvious function and purpose, and likely be an obvious target for future release for development.

Furthermore, “There are perfectly reasonable planning objectives that are not addressed in the five purposes. Whilst the landscape around a town may be of high value, for instance, and may benefit from the restriction on development afforded by Green Belt policy, the conservation of that quality cannot be a reason to designate the area as Green Belt.”

It must be said that, in Canvey Island’s case, NPPF Paragraph 81 “local planning authorities should plan positively to enhance the beneficial use of the Green Belt” should be interpreted to include the important function of acting as an area Flood Water can disperse over.

“The basic concept of Green Belt was established back in 1902 by Ebenezer Howard in Garden Cities of Tomorrow.  From the first guidance in 1955 to its current expression in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) (March 2012),  and the Planning Policy Guidance (PPG) there have been ‘purposes’ for which  Green Belt has been able to be designated and used, and land can only be included in Green Belt to achieve these purposes.”

Once again there appears another opportunity for the NPPF to be legally dissected and decisions being finally resolved through the law courts, rather than being left to local authorities to decide.

The Telegraph article can be found by using this LINK.






2 responses to “Green Belt in Cheap Sell Off? Under-the-Counter Cooperation!

  1. Lets not forget.

    Brandon Lewis Minister of State (Communities and Local Government)

    “Local authorities and their communities are best placed to decide, through their Local and Neighbourhood Plans, which land is most suitable for development and what infrastructure is needed to support it.

    The National Planning Policy Framework, which must be taken into account in plan-making and is a material consideration in individual planning decisions, makes it clear that the purpose of the planning system is to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development.

    It:states that Green Belt should be given the highest protection and its boundaries only adjusted in exceptional circumstances through the Local Plan process;

    requires local authorities to support a pattern of development that, where reasonable to do so, facilitates the use of public transport, walking and cycling, and focus significant development in locations which are or can be made sustainable enables local communities to identify for special protection green or open areas of particular importance to them as Local Green Space;

    is clear that inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding should be avoided by directing development away from areas at highest risk.
    Individual decisions are made in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise”.

  2. P.Gibbs commented:
    Green belt swaps are pointless. Location is everything for the purposes of the green belt. They can’t be transferred elsewhere. This idea was mooted by ministers a couple of years ago but it was never practical as a legitimate policy. I don’t think it is really being reconsidered now. This is just the musing of an ignorant Telegraph reporter who has not looked much into what has actually been put forward in consultations, speeches and reports this year. In fact it’s not much better than fake news, yet a few other papers are repeating it. What has been discussed for the housing white paper (now due in January) is allowing more development on green belt “near” commuter hubs and development of “brownfield in the green belt” These things are likely to be prove more harmful than swaps could be. There may also be new rules to make it harder for other councils to follow the example of Castle Point’s Local Plan but that depends whether the inspector can find a way to kick it now using current rules.

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