Ministers recently reaffirmed the Government’s clear manifesto commitment to maintaining the strong protections for Green Belt, which are set out in the National Planning Policy Framework. The Framework makes clear that a local authority may alter the shape of its Green Belt only in exceptional circumstances, using the Local Plan process. The Framework does not define ‘exceptional circumstances’. However, in the Housing White Paper, Fixing our broken housing market, we proposed that a local authority should be able to adjust a Green Belt boundary only when it demonstrates that it has examined all other reasonable options for meeting its identified development needs, including:
- effective use of suitable brownfield land;
- the potential offered by under-used land;
- optimising the density of development; and
- exploring whether other authorities can help to meet some of the identified development requirement.
We have been analysing the consultation responses on this proposed clarification, and will announce our conclusions as soon as possible in 2018.
Since records began in 1997, Green Belt has continued to cover around 13 per cent of England, and overall we consider that national policy has successfully restrained urban sprawl. Where necessary, a local authority in consultation with the community can propose a Green Belt boundary change, as part of its Local Plan process, but the revised Plan is subject to rigorous, formal examination by a planning inspector before it is adopted.
The Framework is not law, but the law does require local authorities engaged in Plan-making to have regard to the Framework.