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Adjustment to PPG2 to clarify what is meant by disproportionate extensions in Green Belts and to ensure planning approvals are more fairly assessed.

Planning Policy Guidance Note PPG2 and the planning policies that many local authorities derive from that national guidance are unfairly in conflict with my right to enjoy my property in the Green Belt. 

The policy suggests that inappropriate development in the Green Belt is by definition harmful to the openness of a Green Belt irrespective of weather or not any one can see the development or if it causes no other harm – other than offend the sensibilities of a local planning officer.

The test for extending dwellings is based on the concept that extensions are not inappropriate if they are not disproportionate over and above the size of the original building (i.e. as the building was in 1948 or when first built). 

Many planning applications have been allowed over the years to extend such properties.  A good proportion between the 1960s when Green Belts first appeared and 1995 when PPG2 was published.  In recent years many authorities have become increasingly tight on what they will allow under what is a very ambiguously worded policy.  Many planning officers when given a cap and a badge seek to enforce a percentage limit as a black and white interpretation of what the national guidance sets out.  This gives them power but does not require any difficult or professional judgements to be made.

Two key issues arise from the way this policy has evolved that are in direct contravention of the right to enjoy property allowed for under the HRA.

Although there is no formal definition of original within PPG2 many but not all authorities use 1948 as the cut off date.  So while some properties may have been extended in the past they are treated differently.  In our local area the authority has lost most of its records from before reorganisation that took place in 1974.  This can mean properties that were build after 1948 can be mistakenly taken for earlier or earlier phases of extension work can be incorrectly assumed to be part of the original.  Other authorities now take later dates (one as late as 1980) as the cut off date.

Smaller dwellings are placed under a much greater restriction than larger properties.  So while a good sized extension on a large property could have the same volume or foot print as a modest extension on a small dwelling – the extension to the smaller property would be more likely to be refused.  The extension on the smaller property can be automatically classed as 'inappropriate development' even though it has no greater size or impact on openness!  This can be the case even where an acceptable extension could be in full public view and the unacceptable extension could be completely out of site on a rear elevation.

The assessments made under this policy as it currently stand are frequently confused and arbitrary.  The policy should be changed to recognise that small properties can be extended by a greater proportion (say up to a limit of the extension not being greater than the original volume) without harm.  Alternatively change the wording to say extensions to dwellings in the green belt are acceptable as long as they don't cause a disproportionate increase in the visibility (or visual impact) of the building from public vantage points.





Why does this matter?

This change is important as the current situation is highly confusing – many people have bought properties in the Green Belt without understanding the very convoluted wording and interpretation of PPG2.

The policy places an entirely arbitrary limit on how someone living in the Green Belt may enjoy their property.

Planning policies should generally be worded to encorage planning officers to engage in proper professional (or common sense) judgements (without over taxing them) rather than allow them to make simplistic decisions based on interpretations that most of the general public would have real difficulty in following.

The way the policy operates is heavily slanted against smaller properties which would generally cause the least harm to the objectives of the wider policy.

By definition the housing stock in the Green Belt areas is almost entirely pre 1955 – 60 and this restriction on smaller dwellings makes it very difficult to extend what may have been a suitable family home in the 1950's to bring the property up to what would be considered a family sized house for the 21 C.  This means such properties are not easy or economic to improve to in line with other basic standards – such as part L of the building regs (energy efficiency).

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2 Responses to Adjustment to PPG2 to clarify what is meant by disproportionate extensions in Green Belts and to ensure planning approvals are more fairly assessed.

  1. Rod Marshall says:

    You have described precisely the problem of small dwellings needing to be extended in the green belt. My planning application is being recommended for refusal next week despite the fact I have the support of my neighbours (not just that there are no objections) and that the properties in the area are bigger (& better!). I support the ideals of green belt policy but not the heavy handed way that it’s enforced by the LPA.

    Your suggestion to change the wording to say “extensions to dwellings in the green belt are acceptable as long as they don’t cause a disproportionate increase in the visibility (or visual impact) of the building from public vantage points” seems eminently sensible.

  2. cmorri says:

    This is an important discussion point, generally. My client has had 2 applications refused. His property is 700sq ft and on a site of 1/3rd of an acre. There is a 2500sq ft barn on the site also.
    The barn is right on the boundary of the countryside. Houses around the lane are between 1500sq ft to 4000 sq ft……………….
    The applications were for a 2 storey and single storey extension of 1500sq ft taking the house to 2,200sq ft.
    Both applications were designed to include removal of the barn and consolidate development in the middle of the plot away from countryside boundaries.
    The LA and inspector agreed that the policy which required extensions to appropriate to the ‘host’ dwelling meant that simply anything more than about 300sq ft is unacceptable………………….

    At what point is a dwelling considered small enough to have a large extension and for that to be reasonable?

    To use the polemic……………. if I had a 25sq ft house on a site of 2 acres, is it only reasonable for me to build another 12sq ft as an extension.

    It appears that the easiest way for my client to get a reasonable house on a large plot, is to knock it down and remove the ‘host building’ argument and build a new 2500 sq ft house, which is hardly sustainable, knocking down buildings just to overcome a policy impasse.


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