Scottish Green Belts Alliance

Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) on green belts

Web page version 4th February 2010

ISBN 978 0 7559 9156 3 (Web only publication)

In 2010 the Executive announced the final version of the new Scottish Planning Policy (SPP): a statement of the Scottish Government's policy on nationally important land use planning matters. You can read it on a Scottish Executive web page, or download as a PDF file (284k).

Paragraphs 159 - 164 of the SPP set out the objectives of green belt policy and the way in which it should be used and enforced. This policy replaces SPP21. Although the policy was not changed, much detail was lost as SPP21 was condensed into just over a single page.

The following is a copy of the Green Belts paragraphs of the Subject Policies section of the Scottish Planning Policy:

Green Belts

159. The purpose of green belt designation in the development plan as part of the settlement strategy for an area is to:

Green belt designation should provide clarity and certainty on where development will and will not take place, and can have particular benefit where a co-ordinated approach to settlement planning is required across local authority boundaries. Green belt designation should be used to direct development to suitable locations, not to prevent development from happening. For towns and cities with a distinct character and identity that could be harmed by unplanned growth, the use of green belt designation and relevant policies may help to manage that growth more effectively.

160. Green belts can encircle settlements but can also take other forms including buffers, corridors, coastal strips or wedges. Land should only be designated by a planning authority as green belt where it will contribute to the settlement strategy for an area. Not all greenfield land will be designated as green belt. Most settlements do not have or need green belts because other policies or designations, such as countryside policies, provide an appropriate context for decision making. Green belt designation can be used to prevent the coalescence of settlements; however there may be circumstances where coalescence would create a more sustainable settlement pattern. Careful consideration should be given to the impact of a green belt on settlements beyond its boundaries as designation may have the effect of transferring pressure for development to locations which may be less sustainable. Green belt designation is not intended to be used to protect natural heritage or safeguard land for major uses such as airports.

161. In city regions, the strategic development plan should establish the need for a green belt, identify its broad area and set the policy for future development within it. Local development plans should establish the detailed boundaries of the green belt and identify types of development which are appropriate within the green belt. Outwith the city regions, the local development plan should establish the need for a green belt, identify specific boundaries and set out the policy for future development within it including the identification of appropriate uses. Where it is considered necessary, the proposed release of land previously designated as green belt should be identified as part of the settlement strategy set out in the development plan.

162. Green belt boundaries identified in local development plans should reflect the long term settlement strategy and ensure that settlements are able to accommodate planned growth. Inner boundaries should not be drawn too tightly around the urban edge, but where appropriate should create an area suitable for planned development between the existing settlement edge and green belt boundary. Boundaries should also take into account the need for development in smaller settlements within the green belt, and where appropriate leave room for expansion. Green belt boundaries should be clearly identifiable on the ground, using strong visual or physical landscape features such as rivers, tree belts, railways or main roads. Hedges and field enclosures will rarely provide a sufficiently robust boundary. Existing settlements should be excluded from green belt designations in development plans, as should existing major educational and research uses, major business and industrial operations, airports and Ministry of Defence establishments.

163. Certain types and scales of development may be appropriate within a green belt, particularly where it will support diversification of the rural economy. These may include:

Where a proposal would not normally be consistent with green belt policy, it may still be considered appropriate either as a national priority or to meet an established need if no other suitable site is available. Development in a designated green belt should be of a high design quality and a suitable scale and form. Intensification of established uses may be appropriate subject to new development being of a suitable scale and form. Many uses will only be appropriate at a low intensity and where any built elements are ancillary to the main use. Public transport and access by walking and cycling will be required for uses that will attract a significant number of visitors. The cumulative erosion of a green belt's integrity through the granting of individual planning permissions should be avoided.

164. In addition to supporting the management of the long term growth of a settlement, an effectively managed green belt can be an important resource for access to the countryside, providing a range of opportunities for outdoor recreation, education and tourism, and for protecting and enhancing biodiversity, the landscape and the historic environment. However, it is not a designation designed to safeguard natural heritage resources. Wherever possible, green networks within settlements should extend into the green belt.

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