Green Belt: the need for Government to resolve policy inconsistencies

28th April 2022

Chris Berry, Planning Manager of CPRE Hertfordshire, writes:

Questions are frequently raised about the technical basis for objections to development. What are the rules for whether a development proposal gets planning permission, or not?  The basic document which determines whether development is acceptable is the Local Plan.

The Local Plan is prepared by the local council following guidelines issued by central government, largely through the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and Planning Practice Guidance (web-based Government guidance, or PPG), and it allocates sites for development following the analysis of housing need. Previously, it seemed that the NPPF was clear that designated protected areas like the Green Belt were strong reasons for not allocating sites, even if housing analysis suggested they might be needed.

The continuing housing crisis has meant that certain councils have over-emphasised issues of housing need. They also quote the NPPF and PPG in support of releasing Green Belt land. This inconsistency has also spilt over into planning appeals when developers challenge a decision to refuse development on Green Belt and planning inspectors over-ride locally made decisions.

It is clear that the Government should clarify the exact status of protected areas, accepting that there are many complex issues involved in the calculation of housing need. CPRE Hertfordshire and others agree that the situation has become untenable. Government Ministers constantly emphasise their support for the Green Belt, and certain councils and planning inspectors ignore their statements.

Minor amendments to the NPPG and PPG would clarify the importance of protected land and give it priority in Local Plans and local planning decisions. In the meantime, there should be a temporary moratorium on the granting of major planning permissions until Government guidance is amended.

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beautiful green field with trees and a blue sky
Green Belt west of Redbourn David Mitchell