A common confusion when visiting sites is the difference between the terms Greenfield and Green Belt. The first is any site that has not been previously developed i.e. not Brownfield. Green Belt is a planning designation that significantly restricts development within that area. There are 14 Green Belts in the UK, they were first enacted in 1947 with the intention of preventing urban sprawl through ribbon development. They have evolved over the years and are currently enshrined in the National Planning Policy Framework which states that the most important aspect of the Green Belt is their openness.
There is a general presumption against inappropriate development within the Green Belt with specific exceptions for agriculture and forestry. However the exceptions are subject to a number of other caveats including the effect on visual amenity and again the openness of the Green Belt. Openness has also proven to cause some confusion and has been subject to further government statements and judicial cases. The ambiguity is easily understood when the term openness can simultaneously be applied to both a large ‘open’ field and a dense wood both within the Green Belt. In planning terms openness is best described as free from development. Interpreting the impact of a proposed development on the character and openness of the Green Belt needs careful assessment with mitigation communicated properly using a variety of techniques to ensure a successful outcome.