Case law: Court of Appeal rules on building in the green belt

13th June 2016

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Related tags

  • Business & Industry ,
  • Built environment ,
  • Planning


Graeme McCallum

Miranda Edwards at Lexis PSL considers a Court of Appeal case concerning the very special circumstances of building in the green belt.

In R (Lee Valley Regional Park Authority) v Epping Forest District Council, the Court of Appeal considered the validity of planning permission for a 92,000 m2 glasshouse in the green belt. The main issue was whether the development was appropriate in an area set aside to prevent unchecked urbanisation.

Paragraph 88 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that inappropriate development is harmful to the green belt and should not be approved except in ‘very special circumstances’. The regional park authority argued that para 88 required the council to give substantial weight to any ‘actual harm’ to the openness of the green belt area, even though the development was appropriate development under the ‘buildings for agriculture’ exception in para 89.

The court rejected this interpretation and found that, as the buildings for agriculture exception was entirely unqualified, the openness considerations in para 88 did not apply. The court held that para 88, when read together with paras 79 to 92 of the NPPF, meant that appropriate developments, such as buildings for agriculture, were automatically regarded as not being harmful to the openness of the green belt and therefore did not need to be justified by very special circumstances.

The court stressed that appropriate developments under para 89 could still be rendered unacceptable for other planning reasons and that proposals for agricultural buildings would not be immune from other policies. These include those relating to the visual effects of development and the protection of the countryside or the character of the landscape.


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