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Land classification - FAQ

Q: What is Green Belt land?

The Town and Country Planning Act 1947 first allowed local authorities to include green belt proposals in their development plans, with the first Green Belt designations appearing during the 1950's as a tool to control urban growth. 

The Government attaches great importance to Green Belts; their fundamental aim being to prevent urban sprawl through their essential characteristics of openness and permanence.

Green Belts are a spatial planning tool and their designation is not necessarily linked to landscape value.

Different legislation exists to protect landscapes of value and natural beauty such as National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and local designations, such as Special Landscape Areas (SLAs) or equivalent.

Q: What’s the difference between Green Belt and greenfield land?

Fundamentally, greenfield land represents a currently undeveloped, usually rural or semi-rural location in the open countryside such as an agricultural field. Unlike Green Belt, greenfield land has no special designation but may for example form part of a valued landscape or be associated with a heritage asset.

Q: What is brownfield Land?

Brownfield represents land which has been previously developed but for whatever reason is now disused. This could apply to former industrial sites which have become vacant or abandoned over time.

Q: Why not use existing brownfield sites instead of greenfield land?

Many acres of brownfield land are developed for housing every year.  However, there simply aren’t enough brownfield sites available and suitable to satisfy many Councils’ annual housing requirement.  Therefore, a supply of planning permissions from greenfield sites is inevitable in order to meet national housing targets.

There are some obvious challenges associated with brownfield sites which often render them financially unviable, such as re mediating contamination associated with the site’s former use and demolition which can be very costly if, for example, buildings contain hazardous material such as asbestos.