If you catch a glimpse of your local newspaper, it is likely you may see headlines revealing planned local development on Green Belt land. 

“Build on Green Belt land, never…,” I may hear you gasp.   However, it is a reality which seems to be affecting more and more towns in England, even mine.    

I recently attended an informative webinar co-presented by DJB and DevAssis which was really useful and gave a succinct account of why and how this is happening. 

The Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) is a council’s assessment of land suitable for residential development which it expects to deliver for housing needs over the next 15 years or more.  Under SHLAA and the National Planning Authority Policy Framework, it is possible for a council to permit the development of local parks, public amenities, and Green Belt land in special circumstance (including affordable housing if it meets requirements), and as explained during the webinar, properties located on the edge of a settlement (including adjoining Green Belt land) are most at risk.  Therefore, a property being advertised for sale with unobstructed views of sweeping, rolling countryside, could, within the coming years, be surrounding by a new housing estate.  I was shocked to learn that even an uninterrupted sea view from an apartment block was not safe from plans to build an obstructive development on the beach itself! 

Surely, it is just an issue for someone buying a residential property.  Not really.  It is becoming more and more important in any property transaction to consider whether there are any development plans for the area surrounding the target property.  Not only could a development have an adverse impact on value, but depending on the size of the development, prolonged access issues during construction could result in a decreased footfall, hence business disruption to the occupier of commercial premises.  These are issues which any purchaser or tenant may wish to use in order to renegotiate terms.

Unless a purchaser or tenant carries out a search relating specifically to development in the surrounding area, it is unlikely that any issues will be raised in a local authority search which deals with the planning history of the target property. In addition, lawyers are not planning experts, therefore the principle of ‘caveat emptor’ (buyer beware) is never more important than now.  However, it is possible to check a local authority’s website to find out more about the SHLAA plan for a town, which is a good starting point.