The Government has been considering the harm caused to the green belt by unauthorised development which apart from the damage caused can result in time consuming and expensive enforcement action.
You may recall the case involving Mr Fidler who tried to avoid green belt planning restrictions in Surrey by building a large house behind straw bales so he could live in it for four years and wait out the period during which enforcement action could be taken. He failed, and that particular loophole was swiftly closed, but the pressure on the green belt continues.
With this in mind the Government is seeking to provide additional protection for the green belt in two ways.
First, from 31 August 2015, a new planning policy statement makes all intentional unauthorised development a material consideration when considering any retrospective planning applications or appeals. This means works carried out before planning permission is obtained could detrimentally impact on the developer’s ability to subsequently obtain planning permission.
Appeal decisions will be monitored to assess the implementation of this policy and its effectiveness in preventing pre-permission development on green belt land. The situation is set to be reviewed in six months’ time.
Secondly, the definition of “traveller” in planning policy has been redefined so that those who no longer travel and who reside in permanent sites will now be subject to the same planning principles which apply to all other residential development, thereby making the enlargement of permanent sites more difficult.
Perhaps the real threat to the green belt is the balancing act that Local Authorities increasingly have to play in promoting development and providing new housing, whilst at the same time protecting their green spaces.