Case law: Green belt development and changing boundaries

30th June 2015

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Jen Hawkins of LexisPSL considers a case between Luton Borough Council v Central Bedfordshire Council concerning building on the green belt.

In Luton Borough Council v Central Bedfordshire Council, the Court of appeal held that the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) did not create a presumption or requirement that boundaries had first to be altered via the local plan before green belt land could be built on.

Central Bedfordshire council (CBC) granted planning permission for a major development in an area designated as green belt. The adjoining authority, Luton borough council, alleged that CBC had failed to take into account paragraph 83 of the NPPF on green belt boundaries when deciding whether to grant planning permission and that the decision was premature. The court said para 83 did not lay down a presumption or create a requirement that the boundaries had to be altered before any development. It said that paras 87 (inappropriate development) and 88 (weighing harm to the green belt) “plainly contemplated that development might be permitted on land within the green belt, without the need to change its boundaries in the local plan, provided ‘very special circumstances’ existed”.

The officer’s report for CBC had properly emphasised to the planning committee that they could grant planning permission for development only if they believed the very special circumstances test had been satisfied. There had been no misdirection or material error as a result of the omission of a reference to para 83 in the report, said the court. It ruled that there had been a proper basis for the planning committee to conclude that very special circumstances existed and that there had been no sound prematurity objection to the granting of planning permission.


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