Green Belt ‘Swaps’ Must Individually Meet the ‘Exceptional Circumstances’ Test #NPPF
Congratulations on Cheshire East for a bold and imaginative plan involving a Green Belt Swap and new new settlements. We have previously on here in April questioned the wisdom of road based sprawl as a model fo Crewe’s expansion and instead suggestion that with 5 railway arms reaching towards it one of which could logically form a nucleus for a new settlement.
Of course, despite ministerial hints the concept of a Green Belt Swap is found nowhere in national policy. The addition and the subtraction must individuality meet national policy tests as must the soundness of the spatial strategy for development of both areas (restrictive and development) combined.
It is important to stress the former point as the NPPF ‘exceptional circumstances’ test – as confirmed in the famous Perhrrson Carpets of Worth tests sets a high hurdle, exceptional circumstances, both for changes (positive and negative) to Green Belts as they are supposed to be permanent.
of course one exceptional circumstance could be the high level of housing need and the inability to meet that outside the Green belt without high levels of car commuting. If an area is subject to exceptional development pressures and a designation would meet one of more of the Green Belt purposes then addition may be justified. But of course each is tested separately and then and only then is the combined effect of the spatial policy tested for soundness.
As many have commented the ‘swap’ idea is primarily one of making Green Belt release palatable politically. of course it wont be suitable everywhere – such as for example in ‘Rochford 95% Green Belt: Our Heritage, Our Future’.