Development Management Policies DPD

Ended on the 30th April 2010
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The Green Belt and Countryside

(5) Vision

In five years…

  • The openness and character of the Rochford Green Belt continues to be protected, though small areas next to settlements have been released for development.
  • Existing businesses in the Green Belt which are important to the local economy continue to be supported.
  • Redevelopment of unattractive buildings in Battlesbridge Conservation Area is taking place, enhancing the character and appearance of the Conservation Area whilst respecting the objectives of the Green Belt.
  • A number of rural buildings have been converted to enable and support green tourism projects and rural diversification.

By 2017…

  • Green tourism initiatives have been developed which provide sustainable opportunities for rural businesses whilst maintaining a high quality environment. These initiatives have encouraged small-scale tourism projects sensitive to the local environment which help to sustain the rural economy without contributing to climate change.
  • Acceptance of greater flexibility towards rural diversification has resulted in the development of a number of bed and breakfasts and hotels, facilitating stays in the countryside for visitors to the area.
  • The first phase of sustainable urban extensions to meet the District’s housing needs over the plan period have been implemented. A small area of the District’s Green Belt has been reallocated for employment use in order to facilitate the creation of new jobs which meet the population’s needs and contribute towards the District’s economy.

By 2025…

  • The Green Belt remains predominantly undeveloped and open in character.
  • Rochford District continues to be recognised as the green part of the Thames Gateway South Essex.
  • The second phase of sustainable urban extensions is completed.
  • Rochford is recognised as a tourist destination, with good access to the rivers and waterways and many visitors to the nationally recognised wetlands at Wallasea.

(5) Objectives

  1. Continue to protect the openness and character of the District’s Green Belt.
  2. Ensure the minimum amount of Green Belt is allocated to meet the District’s housing and employment needs, and that extensions to the residential envelope are in sustainable locations, which retain the individual identities of settlements and prevent coalescence.
  3. Ensure existing lawful businesses in the Green Belt are able to continue to function and contribute to the local economy, as appropriate, having regard to the impact on the openness and character of the Green Belt.
  4. Ensure appropriate forms of diversification are encouraged to support the local rural economy and help achieve the vision of developing green tourism in the District.

(1) Introduction

Rochford District is predominantly rural, and the majority of land within the District is designated as Metropolitan Green Belt. In addition, there are areas of countryside at the eastern extremity of the District which are isolated, undeveloped and rural in character but sit outside of the Green Belt. The emerging Core Strategy notes that the Council envisages Rochford District will continue to be the green part of the Thames Gateway. National policy on the Green Belt is contained within Planning Policy Guidance Note 2 – Green Belts (PPG2). The most important aspect of the Green Belt is its openness. PPG2 states that the five purposes of including land within the Green Belt are as follows:

  • To check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas;
  • To prevent neighbouring towns from merging into one another;
  • To assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment;
  • To preserve the setting and special character of historic towns; and
  • To assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land.

The emerging Core Strategy continues to maintain the restrictive approach towards development within the Green Belt to protect its openness and character. It is, however, recognised that the minimum amount of Green Belt necessary will need to be reallocated for appropriate alternative uses to meet the requirements in the East of England Plan (2008).

It is recognised nationally (e.g. Planning Policy Statement 4 – Planning for Sustainable Economic Development) that rural diversification, including non-agricultural activities, is important for the rural economy. However, it is also necessary to consider the impact of diversification on the character of rural areas, economic development in urban areas, and wider sustainability issues. It should also be noted that the majority of the District’s countryside is designated as Green Belt, and as such is expected to perform an important role as described above.  Accordingly rural diversification is encouraged in the emerging Core Strategy (e.g. the conversion of buildings to bed and breakfasts / small-scale hotels) which will enhance the rural economy whilst respecting the principles set out in PPG2.

Rural diversification is considered within the Green Belt chapter of the emerging Core Strategy, however, specific planning issues with respect to development within the Green Belt and countryside, including the impact of permitted development rights and tourism, needs further elaboration.

The classification of land as ‘Green Belt’ is a planning designation, rather than a description of the land itself; nevertheless its designation is fundamental in maintaining the green open character of the District and preventing the coalescence of settlements. It is recognised, however, that not all areas of the Green Belt are of the same character; rural diversification will be more appropriate in some parts than others. Such areas are no less worthy of Green Belt designation and continue to perform an important role in preserving the character and openness of the District but they may also afford tourism, rural diversification and leisure and recreational opportunities, where appropriate.

(2) The Green Belt and Countryside

It is recognised that whilst the majority of the District is designated Metropolitan Green Belt, a proportion of the land mass to the east is open countryside which is not afforded this designation. This area around Foulness is encompassed by the Coastal Protection Belt and other nature conservation designations (further information can be found in the SEA Baseline Information Profile). Accordingly it is important to have policies which refer to both the Green Belt and the wider countryside as appropriate.

Some of the issues and proposed options set out in this chapter are applicable to Green Belt and not the countryside, whilst others apply to both. Text within the sections themselves explain whether they are applicable to just the Green Belt, or the Green Belt and wider countryside.

(1) Landscape Character

Rochford District is divided into three landscape character areas (see Figure 2);

  • Crouch and Roach Farmland - The coastal character of the area is defined by the narrow estuaries which penetrate far inland, with associated low lying mudflats, salt marsh and reclaimed marshlands, including grazing marsh. The land between the estuaries and their immediate margins is undulating arable farmland.
  • Dengie and Foulness - This is an extensive, remote area of reclaimed marshland, tidal mudflat sands and fringing salt marshes (which is rich in wildlife) beyond the sea wall; and
  • South Essex Coastal Towns - An area of very mixed character, but unified by the overall dominance of urban development, with frequent views of an urban skyline.

The sensitivity of these landscape character areas to change is quite variable. The most sensitive area is the Dengie and Foulness Coast. The South Essex Coastal Towns landscape area is generally the least susceptible, although there are important nature conservation designations within this area (e.g. the Upper Roach Valley) which will need to be considered. This landscape is also highly sensitive to infrastructure development (e.g. masts, pylons) and to a decline in countryside management.

Figure 2 – Landscape character areas of Rochford District (Source: Essex County Council)

Figure 2

Agricultural Land

Over half of the agricultural land located within Rochford District is classified as Grade 3. The majority of Grade 1 agricultural land is located to the south and south east of the District. The majority of Grade 2 agricultural land is centrally located in the District, as well as there being a small isolated area present to the east (see Figure 3).

Figure 3 – Agricultural land classification of Rochford District (Source: Essex County Council)

Figure 3

Employment Opportunities in the Green Belt and Countryside

The Council supports the sustainable economic development of the District, including through developing existing spatial patterns of employment as outlined in the emerging Core Strategy, and seeking to ensure the continued functioning and growth of small and medium sized businesses. These businesses play an important role, particularly in the sustainability of rural economies in creating local employment opportunities within the District; however, the Council recognises that it is imperative to balance the potential for economic growth with the protection of the District’s countryside, and Green Belt land in particular. 

There are a number of issues in respect of economic development in rural areas outside of the Green Belt which are adequately addressed by national planning policies and as such should not be repeated in the District’s own policies.  However, it is recognised that there is a potential conflict between national policies promoting economic development in rural areas, and those that seek to protect the Green Belt. As such, DM10 and DM12 below relate, as detailed in the text and options, only to the Green Belt and seek to address this potential conflict. With regards to rural diversification the Council believes that further elaboration on national policy is required, as such DM11 looks at rural diversification in the Green Belt and in non-Green Belt countryside.

Existing Businesses in the Green Belt

There is already a diverse range of businesses operating within the Green Belt, for a variety of historical and operational reasons. These locations are not designated as employment land because they are not appropriate for intensification or additional business uses, as these would negatively impact on the character of the area and would be unsustainable. The Council acknowledges that these businesses make an important contribution to the local rural economy; however, their location still merits Green Belt designation.

The Council recognises the importance of encouraging and sustaining local economic growth throughout the District. However, the desirability of economic growth needs to be weighed against the impact of the businesses operations and presence on the objectives of the Green Belt, in particular its openness and character as well as wider sustainability objectives. The Council will support lawfully established businesses in appropriate and accessible locations to encourage the vitality of the local economy and to fulfil the potential of local businesses. To preserve openness as far as possible and to protect the character of the Green Belt, existing lawfully established businesses will be limited, as a guide, to no more than a 25% cumulative increase of gross floorspace over that of the original building.

The growth of the business should not have a detrimental impact on the amenity of nearby residential dwellings through a significant increase in traffic generation (either on the rural highway network or through the provision of additional car parking), or pollution (through noise, lighting, or other forms of emissions). 

(4) DM10 Existing Businesses in the Green Belt – Preferred Option

The Council will support existing lawfully established businesses in the Green Belt, allowing extensions to existing business premises and changes of use to enable diversification, where appropriate, subject to the following:

  1. extensions and / or changes of use relate to an existing business which is lawfully established and would not be detrimental to nature conservation interests, landscape character, valuable agricultural land or residential amenity;
  2. where an extension is proposed it would not result in a disproportionate increase in gross floorspace over that of the original building;
  3. it can be demonstrated that the proposal is necessary for the functioning of the existing business, and the proposed development would not be better situated in a deliverable and available location elsewhere in the District;
  4. the development has been designed to minimise impact on the character, appearance and openness of the Green Belt;
  5. the scale, design and materials of the original building is respected;
  6. the development would not undermine town centre regeneration; and
  7. the type or volume of generated traffic, particularly heavy goods vehicles, would be appropriate to the rural highway network, would not have an unacceptable adverse effect on highway safety, the amenity of nearby residential occupiers or important wildlife habitats.

DM10 Existing Businesses in the Green Belt – Alternative Options

Option Why is it not preferred?
Allow more than 25% increase in gross floorspace of existing business premises A greater increase in gross floorspace would have a greater detrimental impact on the openness and character of the Green Belt and may significantly increase the scale of the existing business.
Adopt a more restrictive approach This would not ensure the sustainability of local rural businesses and may have a negative impact on the local economy.

(1) Rural Diversification

Supporting rural diversification is important to ensure the prosperity of the local economy. As identified in the emerging Core Strategy, the Council supports activities which would complement the current functioning of agricultural establishments, the conversion of existing agricultural buildings for small-scale B1 employment use, green tourism, conversion of farm buildings to bed and breakfasts / small-scale hotels and outdoor recreation and leisure activities. Retail and residential development, however, are not considered acceptable forms of rural diversification in the Green Belt or rural areas outside the Green Belt.

The use of existing agricultural buildings for bed and breakfasts is acceptable within the Green Belt and wider countryside because they can make a positive contribution to the local rural economy and support the development of local green tourism initiatives. However, the use of existing agricultural buildings for residential is not considered appropriate as such a use does not in itself generate economic activity within the Green Belt or countryside and would not make a positive contribution to the rural economy. Even if a bed and breakfast venture becomes economically unviable, the conversion of such a use for residential purposes is not supported. Residential uses would not positively contribute to the local rural economy and green tourism and therefore would not be considered appropriate. 

Permission for development within the Green Belt and countryside must have regard to the landscape character, and the sensitivity of such a landscape to the development proposed, and the grade of agricultural land. It is recognised that the landscape areas less sensitive to development are also those that are generally less isolated and are more accessible. As such, these areas tend to offer more viable and sustainable opportunities for rural diversification.

It is, however, recognised that agricultural establishments looking to diversify their activities are often located within Crouch and Roach Farmland and Dengie and Foulness landscape character areas. Established agricultural buildings already have an impact on the openness of the Green Belt and character of the countryside. As such these have the potential to still benefit from rural diversification opportunities, where appropriate, without further undue harm to the openness of the Green Belt or character of the countryside.

(4) DM11 Rural Diversification – Preferred Option

Rural diversification will be supported so long as it involves an appropriate form of rural activity, as outlined in the emerging Core Strategy, and having regard to the following:

  1. the need to ensure that the proposed use would not have an undue impact on the openness of the Green Belt, character of the countryside nature conservation interests, visual amenity or residential amenity;
  2. the need to ensure that the proposed use would not introduce additional activity or traffic movements likely to materially and adversely affect the character of the Green Belt or character of the countryside, or place unacceptable pressures on the surrounding highway network;
  3. the sensitivity of the landscape character area in which the proposal is situated to the development proposed;
  4. the impact of the proposal on the agricultural potential of the land; and
  5. where rural diversification for employment opportunities is proposed, the area should have good links to the highway network.

DM11 Rural Diversification – Alternative Options

Option Why is it not preferred?
Disregard the different grades of agricultural land It is important to protect the District’s most valuable agricultural land from undue impact.
Disregard the different landscape character areas It is important to protect the diverse character of the District’s Green Belt from undue impact.

Conversion of Existing Agricultural Buildings in the Green Belt

Planning Policy Statement 4 sets out the government's planning policies for economic development in rural areas, including country towns and villages and the wider, largely undeveloped countryside up to the fringes of larger urban areas. The guidance encourages the reuse of existing farm buildings in the interest of rural diversification where practicable. The Council supports this objective and the conversion of existing agricultural buildings in the countryside, and Green Belt where this is appropriate and compatible with PPG2. As such, it is necessary to set out a policy for the conversion of agricultural buildings in the Green Belt which balances the guidance in PPS4 with that in PPG2.

Residential conversion of existing agricultural buildings is not considered appropriate in the Green Belt or the wider countryside because it will undermine the Council’s strategic approach to residential development and overarching sustainability objectives as detailed in the emerging Core Strategy.

The Council does not wish to see listed agricultural buildings such as outbuildings, barns and stables, which contribute to the heritage of the District to become neglected through a restrictive approach to their use. These buildings may be capable of serving a useful purpose in the rural environment and can contribute to the functioning of the local economy. As such, rural diversification of listed farm buildings will be accepted, however, significant alterations will only be considered if they do not have adverse impact on the integrity of the existing structure. Supporting evidence from a structural engineer should accompany any application for the conversion of listed agricultural buildings.

(5) DM12 Conversion of Existing Agricultural Buildings in the Green Belt – Preferred Option

The reuse or adaptation of existing agricultural buildings will be supported provided that:

  1. the application relates to an existing building with a form, bulk and general design in keeping with its surroundings;
  2. the application relates to an existing building of permanent and substantial construction;
  3. the proposed use would not introduce additional activity or traffic movements likely to materially and adversely affect the openness of the Green Belt, or place unacceptable pressures on the surrounding highway network;
  4. the proposal does not exceed the existing footprint of the original building (at the date of application), with the exception of an allowance for additions that would be permitted in accordance with Preferred Option DM10;
  5. there would be no detrimental impact on nature conservation interests;
  6. where the conversion of listed agricultural buildings is proposed it should:
    1. not negatively impact on the quality of the listed structure; and
    2. not affect the integrity of the existing structure. A structural engineers report should accompany any application for conversion of a listed building.

Where conversion incorporates additions in accordance with Preferred Option DM10, further extensions will be restricted.

DM12 Conversion and Replacement of Existing Agricultural Buildings in the Green Belt – Alternative Options

Option Why is it not preferred?
Require replacement structures to be the same height or less as the agricultural buildings which they replace. There is concern that many agricultural buildings in the District are, for historical reasons, of a height which is too low to allow viable conversion to alternative uses.  Agricultural buildings could be subject to modest increases in height to enable them to be utilised for rural diversification without undue harm to the openness of the Green Belt or character of the countryside.

Tourism Opportunities in the Green Belt and Countryside

Green Tourism

The potential for the development of tourism within the District has been recognised as an avenue for enhancing the local economy, particularly in rural areas. The Council aims to encourage the promotion of green tourism which would benefit the local population through rural diversification and promote the District’s green open spaces. There is the possibility of exploring landscape tourism based upon the differing landscape characteristics across the District.

Green tourism refers to sustainable tourism activities which can be promoted within the countryside (including within the Green Belt) and are sensitive to the environment and sustainable in terms of stimulating rural economic growth and encouraging diversification of rural activities. Small-scale outdoor recreational and leisure activities such as walking and small-scale fishing lakes are considered appropriate forms of green tourism. Proposed activities should have a positive impact on the local environment and visual amenity of the surrounding area. The promotion of green tourism must respect nature conservation interests and proposals must not adversely affect sites of ecological importance.

The majority of the District is designated Green Belt land, and as such, the impact of this must be considered within the promotion of green tourism. Activities should not impact on the openness of the Green Belt, and where ancillary facilities may be needed, existing rural buildings should be utilised, where appropriate. In considering proposals for tourism activity, the landscape character and quality of the agricultural land affected will be considerations.

(4) DM13 Green Tourism – Preferred Option

Green tourism will be permitted having regard to:

  1. the impact on the openness of the Green Belt (if applicable) and character of the countryside;
  2. the impact on the visual amenity of the surrounding area;
  3. the impact on important areas of nature conservation, including any potential disturbance to nearby sites;
  4. the sensitivity of the landscape character area in which the proposal is situated to the development proposed;
  5. the impact of the proposal on the agricultural potential of the land; and
  6. the impact of the proposal on the highway network, having regard to the likely scale of tourism that the proposal would generate.

Where ancillary facilities are proposed for the purposes of green tourism, it must be demonstrated that such facilities are necessary for the functioning of the activity. Existing agricultural buildings should be reused and converted for the accompanying uses, wherever possible and appropriate. Any new structures must be the minimum size, height and bulk to accommodate the proposed use. Ancillary facilities should not have an undue impact on the openness of the Green Belt or character of the countryside.

The conversion of existing agricultural buildings to bed and breakfasts / small-scale hotels will be permitted in appropriate locations provided that this will not result in an agglomeration of similar facilities.

DM13 Green Tourism – Alternative Options

Option Why is it not preferred?
Disregard the different grades of agricultural land It is important to protect the District’s most valuable agricultural land from undue impact.
Disregard the different landscape character areas It is important to protect the diverse character of the District’s Green Belt and countryside from undue impact.

Leisure and Recreational Opportunities in the Green Belt and Countryside

The Council recognises that the District’s countryside offers the opportunity for numerous leisure and recreational activities as outlined in the emerging Core Strategy. Equestrian facilities and playing pitches, in particular, are supported as appropriate forms of rural diversification for leisure and recreational purposes in the countryside. However, other forms of small-scale leisure and recreation activities may be considered appropriate providing that they do not have an undue impact on the openness of the Green Belt and character of the countryside. 

Equestrian Facilities

The provision of equestrian facilities is a popular form of rural diversification. Increasing demand for equestrian facilities within the District, however, enforces the need to ensure a balanced approach through weighing the need for adequate recreational facilities for equestrian activities against the protection of the Green Belt and countryside, and wide-ranging nature conservation interests throughout the District. PPS4 sets out the government’s approach to development in rural areas. It recognises that such facilities can be easily integrated with current farming activities and can form an important part of sustaining local rural economies. The vast majority of the District’s rural areas are designated as Green Belt and, as such, advice and guidance in PPG 2 must also be considered.

The Council support the diversification of rural economies and as such encourage diversification into equine activities, in appropriate circumstances, where the proposal is suitably located and would not negatively impact on the environmental quality of the local area, openness of the Green Belt or the character of the countryside. As such, proposals should have regard to landscape character, biodiversity, impact on the openness of the Green Belt (where applicable) and nature conservation value of the area in which it is proposed.

PPS4 takes a positive approach to equine development but does not specifically cover what scale of development is appropriate. In this case PPS7 is still applicable. Small-scale equestrian proposals (offering stabling for up to 10 horses5) and large-scale proposals (proposing stables for 10 horses or more), where permitted, should ensure full reuse of existing farm or agricultural buildings before proposals for new development are considered. Where it is demonstrated that existing farm or agricultural buildings are inappropriate or insufficient for the purposes of the enterprise, new equestrian development may be permitted, providing it is closely located and related to existing development and not sited in remote or isolated rural locations. Isolated development can often appear intrusive in open countryside and can lead to the intensification of uses once established. As such, equine development may be more favourable within the South Essex Coastal Towns landscape character area. Furthermore, proposals should seek to minimise the impact of proposed development on the openness of the Green Belt and character of the countryside by ensuring that any new buildings are of a modest design and scale, which is appropriate and the minimum size necessary for their intended purpose. Facilities should be located within one building, if appropriate, or in close proximity to other buildings to ensure visual intrusion is minimised. The Council considers that large-scale development of stables is inappropriate because such an enterprise would materially affect the landscape character and the integrity of the countryside and have an undue impact on the openness of the District’s Green Belt.

Any proposed stable facility will have regard to the British Horse Society Standards in terms of stable size and grazing area. The Society, for example recommends 0.4 hectares (approximately 1 acre) of grazing land per horse.

(2) DM14 Equestrian Facilities – Preferred Option

Applications for equestrian development with essential ancillary facilities will be supported, provided that:

  1. the proposal is for small-scale equestrian development (fewer than 10 stables) which does not create a proliferation of similar businesses in the same locality;
  2. proposals for equestrian establishments whether for private use or as a commercial livery will need to demonstrate that there is adequate land within the curtilage of the site to allow for the proper care of horses, including stabling, grazing and exercise, in accordance with the British Horse Society Standards or equivalent;
  3. proposals for buildings to serve private use or commercial livery are preferably sited near to existing settlements in a sustainable location, and should be situated on land under the control of the applicant for accessibility reasons (for example an area of paddock land immediately adjacent to the applicant's dwellinghouse) if possible;
  4. the proposal utilises redundant existing agricultural buildings, as appropriate. Where it can be demonstrated that existing buildings are inappropriate or insufficient for the proposed use, new buildings will be permitted provided that they are the minimum size necessary for their intended purpose and facilities are proposed to be sited in one location/building, if appropriate;
  5. the proposal is well related to existing or proposed bridleways and will not cause conflicts between equestrians, and have no adverse effect on the road or highway safety of the area;
  6. the proposed stabling and other small-scale essential facilities is modest and appropriate in scale and designed to minimise the potential detrimental impact on the openness of the Green Belt, character of the countryside or important areas of nature conservation interest; and
  7. there will not be a detrimental affect on the amenity of the local area by virtue of noise, smell or disturbance.

DM14 Equestrian Facilities – Alternative Option

Option Why is it not preferred?
Permit large-scale equestrian development. PPS4 encourages Council’s to support equestrian development, however, it also recognises that activities should respect environmental quality and countryside character. The Council considers small-scale development (specifically mentioned in PPS7, although this has now been superseded by guidance in PPS4) more appropriate in the District, given the potential of large-scale equestrian development to materially affect landscape character and integrity of the countryside. It is also imperative to protect the openness of the Green Belt in accordance with PPG2.

(1) Playing Pitches and Other Leisure and Recreational Activities

Playing pitches are an important community facility, and as such they should be sited within locations which are accessible to the general population. Their siting should also be considerate to the landscape character area and quality of the agricultural land in which they are proposed. Such facilities are an acceptable form of leisure and recreational development within the Green Belt and wider countryside, and will thus be supported in principle subject to the provisions set out in the emerging Core Strategy.

The current supply and demand for playing pitches within the District is monitored within the Playing Pitch Strategy Supplementary Planning Document (SPD). This SPD also provides recommendations for future provision of these facilities, and as such, the provision within new developments should have regard to the findings. Playing pitches for the purpose of the study, however, only encompasses facilities for football, rugby, cricket and hockey.

The Council recognises the importance of other sport and recreational activities, in addition to the provision of playing pitches (for the sports defined above) and equestrian facilities within the District, which can make an important contribution to resident’s quality of life. The provision of such facilities is preferable within the South Essex Coastal Towns landscape character area to maximise the benefits for existing and new communities and to reduce the need to travel, thus enhancing their sustainability. However, other areas of the District may be more appropriate locations depending on the level of supply and demand for particular leisure and recreational activities. The Council will keep such supply and demand under review. When proposing other leisure and recreational activities, regard will be had to the Open Space Study evidence base document, as recommended within Planning Policy Guidance Notes 17 (Assessing needs and opportunities: a companion guide to PPG17), which identifies the spatial distribution of key open spaces, leisure and recreational activities within the District.

Leisure and recreational activities are often accompanied by permanent structures, which can impact on the openness of the Green Belt and character and appearance of the countryside. Ancillary facilities will be supported within the Green Belt and wider countryside provided that they are in accordance with the emerging Core Strategy, are small-scale and essential to the functioning of the sport or leisure activity, and seek to minimise the potential impact on the Green Belt and on nature conservation interests. The facilities should be the minimum size necessary for the functioning of the activity which will be determined on a case by case basis, with regard to the guidance published by Sport England in Design Guidance Notes: Pavilions and Club Houses6. The development of such facilities must not exceed the minimum size as stated within the Sport England guidance.

(1) DM15 Playing Pitches and Other Leisure and Recreational Activities – Preferred Option

Proposals for football, rugby, cricket or hockey playing pitches will normally be expected to be located within an area where a deficit in supply has been identified in the Playing Pitch Strategy SPD. Proposals for the siting of these playing pitches and other leisure and recreational activities will be permitted provided that:

  1. they are proposed in an area where a deficit in supply has been identified. Alternative locations where a deficit has not been identified may be acceptable where it can be demonstrated that it is not feasible to share facilities or utilise other existing facilities in the locality, for example school playing fields; or where it can be demonstrated that the deficit location would not be viable to meet the teams/activities needs;
  2. they are located on the edge of residential settlements. Regard must be had to the landscape character area in which the proposed pitches reside. Such leisure and recreational activities may be considered more appropriate in the South Essex Coastal Towns landscape character area, however, their location should be determined by demand, where appropriate;
  3. they are accessible via a variety of alternative transport options such as cycle and bus routes, as well as ensuring opportunities for walking. Provision for cycling routes alongside footpaths and roads will need to be considered; and
  4. the proposal would not impact on the openness of the Green Belt, character of the countryside, generate undue levels of noise, to the detriment of residential amenity, have an undue impact on nature conservation interests or have an adverse impact on the visual amenities of the area.

Where additional permanent facilities associated with the provision of playing pitches will be required, they will be permitted provided that:

  1. they are small-scale and it can be demonstrated that such facilities are essential to the functioning of the activity;
  2. they are suitably located so as to minimise the impact on amenity for neighbouring properties; and
  3. ancillary facilities are modest in size, bulk and height to ensure minimal impact on the Green Belt.

Planning permission for a change of use to playing pitches and other leisure and recreational activities will be subject to conditions restricting the siting of containers and/or portable buildings.

DM15 Playing Pitches and Other Leisure and Recreational Activities – Alternative Option

Option Why is it not preferred?
Permit large-scale ancillary facilities for playing pitches and other leisure and recreational activities. Facilities which are necessary for the functioning of the proposed leisure or recreational activity should be small-scale, so as to limit undue detrimental impact on the openness of the Green Belt as per PPG2.

Residential Uses in the Green Belt

(1) Extensions to Dwellings in the Green Belt

There are a number of dwellings that exist within the Green Belt, for a variety of historical reasons. It is entirely reasonable for those living within the Green Belt to be able to extend their homes to meet changing circumstances.  However, it is equally reasonable that the scale of such extensions be managed to ensure that it does not undermine the objectives of the Green Belt. 

Planning Policy Guidance 2 (PPG2 – Green belts) acknowledges this situation and states that limited extension, alteration or replacement of existing dwellings within the Green Belt is not inappropriate provided that it does not result in disproportionate additions over and above the size of the original building.

Permitted development rights enable certain development to be undertaken without the need to obtain planning permission. The permitted development rights introduced in October 2008 (Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (No. 2) (England) Order 2008) provides greater flexibility in terms of extensions to dwellings in the Green Belt, as it allows extensions without the need to obtain planning permission relative to the size of the original dwelling, regardless of its location. Accordingly the Council considers that the previous 35sq.m of additional habitable floorspace as set out in the 2006 Rochford District Replacement Local Plan no longer relates appropriately to the permitted development rights. As such, a revised approach is required.

Given that PPG2 states that extensions to dwellings in the Green Belt should not result in disproportionate additions over and above the original size of the dwelling, a policy which allows additions proportional to the original floor area of dwellings is considered appropriate. Proposed extensions to dwellings in the Green Belt that would result in a greater than 25% increase in the floor area above that of the original building are considered disproportionate. Proposals for extensions should not be more visually intrusive or have a greater impact on the openness of the Green Belt than those which are permitted under the permitted development rights (Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (No. 2) (England) Order 2008).

(4) DM16 Extensions to Dwellings in the Green Belt – Preferred Option

Applications for extensions to dwellings in the Green Belt will be permitted provided that the proposal would result in no more than a 25% increase in floorspace of the original dwelling, and provided that:

  1. the proposal does not involve a material increase in the overall height of the dwelling; and
  2. the proposal ensures a better layout and design which may have a lesser impact on the openness of the Green Belt than would be permitted under the permitted development rights.

Any grant of planning consent will be conditioned to restrict permitted development extensions within the curtilage of the dwellinghouse.

(1) DM16 Extensions to Dwellings in the Green Belt – Alternative Options

Option Why is it not preferred?
Limit extensions in the Green Belt to a specific floor area. Such an approach was logical when permitted development rights included limits to the volume of extensions. New permitted development rights relate to the size of the existing dwelling and, as such, a policy setting out a finite floorspace limit is no longer applicable.Whilst such approach may be considered fair to all residents in the Green Belt, the Council seek to minimise the impact of dwellings on the openness and character of the Green Belt, and consider determining extensions on a case by case basis, as per the permitted development rights, as a more appropriate way of managing the impact on the openness of the Green Belt.
Permit extensions in accordance with the floor area allowed under the permitted development rights. This approach seems appropriate and in accordance with the permitted development rights, ensuring homeowners do not lose out because they want a different design and layout than permitted through the new rights. However, the potential for immeasurable extensions for some homeowners means that more restrictions are required to ensure the protection of the openness and character of the Green Belt, as far as practicable. 

(3) Agricultural, Forestry and Other Occupational Dwellings

The provision of new dwellings in the countryside and Green Belt, where it can be demonstrated that the existence of on-site accommodation is crucial to the success of an agricultural or forestry business, is considered appropriate. Planning Policy Guidance 2 (PPG2 – Green belts), which applies to the vast majority of rural land within the District, also allows the construction of new buildings for the purposes of agriculture and forestry in the Green Belt, unless permitted development rights have been withdrawn.

However, given the need to balance rural activities with protecting the character of the countryside and openness of the Green Belt, it is important to establish whether there is a functional need for someone to live on the site, whether the enterprise is, or will become financially viable, and whether such viability is likely to be sustainable in the long term. Applications for agricultural or forestry uses which may give rise to the need for a permanent dwelling to be situated on the site should be accompanied by full business plans and / or appraisals carried out by suitably qualified people (e.g. agricultural consultants) and, in respect of applications for dwellinghouses, fully audited accounts for the three years preceding the application. Applicants will be expected to be able to demonstrate that the enterprise provides sufficient income for investment in the business (e.g. money for buildings, machinery, livestock, etc.) in line with the business plan, in addition to income for the construction of the house, personal / family and other needs.

Before permission can be granted for a permanent dwellinghouse, it is imperative for an applicant to demonstrate that their business is economically viable, and has every prospect of remaining so in the longer term. Therefore, where a new business is proposed, an application should first be made for the stationing of a mobile home, or another type of temporary accommodation. Permission for a temporary mobile home will usually be granted for a period of three years, providing it meets the criteria, to give the applicant sufficient time to establish their business, and so meet these objectives. If it can be demonstrated that the business is successful, consideration can then be given to the provision of a permanent dwellinghouse. Permission for the siting of a mobile home will not, however, be granted for a period exceeding three years, nor will permissions normally be renewed if, at the end of the temporary period, the business is still not viable.

Careful consideration should be given to the siting of new dwellings to ensure that they meet the identified functional need, but are also well-related to existing buildings. Such consideration should also extend to the siting of temporary mobile homes, as it will not normally be appropriate to grant permission for a mobile home in a location where a permanent dwelling would not be permitted. Planting schemes will be required to further reduce the visual impact of dwellings in the landscape.

The size of new dwellings should be proportionate to the functioning of the business in accordance with PPS7, and as such, it should be determined by the needs of the business rather than those of the owner or occupier. Given the District’s predominant Green Belt designation, and the Council’s previous agricultural dwelling policy and Green Belt extensions policy set out in the 2006 Rochford District Replacement Local Plan, it is considered reasonable to apply a consistent parameter to new agricultural, forestry and other occupational dwellings.

In the 2006 Replacement Local Plan, new agricultural dwellings were permitted a total floorspace of 140sq.m + 35sq.m Green Belt extension, which permits agricultural dwellings to be extended by the same amount as other dwellings in the Green Belt. The Council’s ‘one size fits all’ approach to extensions to dwellings in the Green Belt is still considered appropriate to ensure that dwellings within the Green Belt and wider countryside are reasonably sized and to protect the openness of the Green Belt in accordance with PPG2, as well as the character of the countryside. Preferred Option DM16 advocates a 25% increase in floorspace of the original dwelling be permitted. Therefore new agricultural or forestry dwellings will be permitted a maximum floor area of 175sq.m (140sq.m + 35sq.m) which coincides with the Council’s previous policy in the 2006 Replacement Local Plan. Planning permission will be conditioned withdrawing permitted development rights from the new dwelling to restrict further extension, and to further limit undue impact on the openness of the Green Belt and character of the countryside. Greater floorspace will be permitted only in exceptional circumstances where it can be sufficiently demonstrated to the Council that the functional need of the business truly requires a larger dwelling.

Planning conditions will be imposed to limit the occupation of all new dwellings to persons employed, or last employed, in agriculture in the locality. This will ensure that dwellings are kept available to meet the needs of other agricultural businesses in the area as a whole if, for whatever reason, a dwelling is no longer required to meet the needs of the original business. The combination of agricultural occupancy conditions with a policy criterion restricting the scale of agricultural dwellings to modest proportions will help to maintain a supply of housing that is available (and affordable) to agricultural workers, and avoid a proliferation of new dwellings in the open countryside. Applications for the removal of agricultural occupancy conditions will not, therefore, be permitted except in the most exceptional circumstances.

DM17 Agricultural, Forestry and Other Occupational Dwellings – Preferred Option

Within the Green Belt and countryside, permanent dwellings for agricultural and forestry workers will be considered appropriate provided it can be adequately demonstrated that:

  1. least one person to be present on the holding at most times of the day and night;
  2. the functional need relates to a full-time agricultural / horticultural worker;
  3. the unit and the agricultural enterprise in question, have been established for at least three years, have been profitable for at least one of them, are currently financially sound and have every prospect of remaining so in the long term;
  4. the functional need could not be fulfilled by another existing dwelling on the unit, or any other accommodation in the area as a whole that is suitable for, and available to, the worker(s) concerned;
  5. no dwelling or other building suitable for conversion to a dwelling has recently (generally considered to be within the past two years) been sold or let by the applicant that would have otherwise met the functional need; and
  6. the size of the dwelling is commensurate with the established functional requirement of the unit (dwellings will normally be expected to be bungalows or chalets and should not, in any case, accommodate in excess of 175sq.m of floorspace).

Planning consent for new farm dwellings will be subject to conditions, inter alia, to restrict their occupation to persons solely or mainly employed, or last employed, in agriculture in the locality and remove permitted development rights in order to control their scale, appearance and impact on the openness of the Green Belt and character of the countryside.

DM18 Temporary Agricultural Dwellings – Preferred Option

Applications for the stationing of mobile homes for agricultural workers in the Green Belt and countryside will be permitted provided it can be demonstrated that:

  1. it is essential for the proper functioning of the enterprise for at least one person to be present on the holding at most times of the day and night;
  2. the functional need relates to a full-time agricultural / horticultural worker;
  3. there is clear evidence of a firm intention and ability to develop the enterprise concerned;
  4. there is clear evidence that the proposed enterprise has been planned on a sound financial basis;
  5. no dwelling or other existing building suitable for conversion to a dwelling has recently (generally considered to be within the past two years) been sold or let by the applicant that would have otherwise met the functional need; and
  6. the functional need could not be fulfilled by another dwelling on the unit, or any other accommodation in the area as a whole that is suitable for, and available to, the worker(s) concerned.

Permissions for mobile homes will be subject to conditions, inter alia, to restrict their occupation to persons solely or mainly employed, or last employed, in agriculture in the locality and require their removal from the holding after a maximum period of three years.

Basements in the Green Belt

The construction of dwellings in the Green Belt with basements would not generally result in overly intrusive, bulky or high dwelling, or extensively impact on the openness of the Green Belt, in terms of the physical impact. However, such alterations to a dwelling can pose problems of residential intensification, and introducing further residential activity in the Green Belt.

Single storey basements will be permitted in addition to the 25% increase in floorspace of the dwelling permitted within Preferred Option DM16, however, such structures must not exceed the footprint of the original dwelling (based on the footprint of the original building as at 1st July 1948 or, when it was first constructed, if this is later). In addition where a basement is permitted, permitted development rights (Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (No. 2) (England) Order 2008) for extensions to dwellings in the Green Belt will be removed to prevent unreasonably sized dwellings and to prevent any potential negative impact on the openness of the Green Belt. 

DM19 Basements in the Green Belt – Preferred Option

The development of basements for a dwelling will be permitted provided that:

  1. the proposal does not exceed the footprint of the dwelling;
  2. the proposal does not give rise to the formation of a self-contained unit of accommodation such as a 'granny flat'; and
  3. the proposal does not impact on the openness of the Green Belt.

Where a basement extension is permitted, planning permission shall be conditioned to restrict further permitted development extensions within the curtilage of the dwellinghouse.

DM19 Basements in the Green Belt – Alternative Options

Option Why is it not preferred?
Include basements within the Green Belt allowance. Whilst basements have some impact on the Green Belt through increasing residential intensification, physically it does not impact on the openness of the Green Belt.
Refuse all applications for basements. Basements do have some impact on the openness of the Green Belt through encouraging more residential activity. However they are considered to have a lesser impact on the openness of the Green Belt compared to above ground extensions, and as such the Council consider it more appropriate to permit these types of extensions providing they are not unreasonable and do not result in intensification or the creation of self-contained units.

The Replacement or Rebuild of Existing Dwellings in the Green Belt

The replacement or rebuild of existing dwellings in the Green Belt will be permitted with an additional extension no greater than 25% floorspace over that of the existing dwelling to ensure consistency between the extension policies in this chapter. It will be necessary to impose a planning condition withdrawing permitted development rights for extensions (Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (No. 2) (England) Order 2008) in appropriate circumstances. This includes the conversion of roof and garage space to habitable rooms in order to ensure that alterations cannot be made to the new dwelling without the consent of the Local Planning Authority.

The Council will favour the utilisation of low pitched roofs, which ensures that a roof area cannot be converted into habitable accommodation thus rendering the roof space unusable for such purposes. The use of a low pitch roof has the additional benefit that the overall visual impact of the dwelling is reduced thus reducing the impact on the Green Belt. Indeed, the visual impact of a dwelling may be reduced further still if a hipped roof is used in lieu of a gabled roof. However, the appropriateness of requiring the low pitch roof design in order to control the scale and floor area of the dwelling in question, in addition to providing visual benefits, will be considered for replacement dwelling applications and applicants will be advised accordingly.

Permitting the replacement or rebuild of existing dwellings offers the opportunity to achieve an improvement in the appearance of many dwellings in the Green Belt. The type of materials, design, location within the plot and landscaping of the site are all matters which will be examined in great detail to ensure that the completion of the dwelling is to a very high standard.

As a consequence of the demand for housing, the majority of dwellings in the Green Belt have been maintained in a reasonable condition. However, a number of former dwellings in the Green Belt are derelict or abandoned. In this context, derelict refers to properties that are in an advanced stated of disrepair, e.g. they have unsound roofs. In considering whether or not a dwelling has been abandoned it is necessary to consider how long ago the use ceased; whether there has been an intervening use; and evidence as to the owner’s intentions regarding the resumption of the use. Derelict or abandoned dwellings can no longer be considered part of the housing stock and, as such, their development for housing in the Green Belt would be inappropriate.

(2) DM20 The Replacement or Rebuild of Existing Dwellings in the Green Belt – Preferred Option

The replacement or rebuild of existing dwellings in the Green Belt will be permitted, taking into consideration:

  1. the total size of the dwelling, provided that it would result in no more than a 25% increase in floorspace of the original dwelling;
  2. the condition of the original dwelling;
  3. the visual mass of the new dwelling should be no greater than that of the existing dwelling (taking into consideration any additional mass allowed for in respect of criterion (i) above). The overall height of the replacement dwelling should not exceed that of the existing dwelling, unless a modest increase in height can be justified on design or visual amenity grounds. Where the existing dwelling is a bungalow it should be replaced by a bungalow; and
  4. the proposed siting of the replacement dwelling. A replacement dwelling should be sited in the same location within the plot as the original dwelling, unless an alternative siting is proposed where it can be demonstrated, to the Council’s satisfaction, that it would be a more appropriate siting in the Green Belt in terms of the impact on openness or amenity;

Where resiting is agreed, arrangements must be secured to ensure the demolition of the replaced dwelling and its outbuildings.

Planning consent for a replacement or rebuild of an existing dwelling will be conditioned withdrawing further permitted development rights within the curtilage of the dwellinghouse.

DM20 The Replacement or Rebuild of Existing Dwellings in the Green Belt – Alternative Option

Option Why is it not preferred?
Not allow the replacement of existing dwellings in the Green Belt. It would be unreasonable to prevent the replacement of existing dwellings in the Green Belt. PPG2 permits the limited extension, alteration or replacement of existing dwellings, which are appropriate and not disproportionate to the size of the original building. Given the flexibility of the current permitted development rights, the Council considers that a 25% increase in floorspace is an appropriate addition to the size of the existing dwelling in the Green Belt, including replacements to ensure consistency with other extension policies.

Extension of Domestic Gardens in the Green Belt

A domestic garden is categorised in Planning Policy Guidance 177 (PPG17 – Planning for open space, sport and recreation) as amenity greenspace, generally found within the residential area, and as such, it can be defined as a private or semi-private area of open space normally attached to a dwelling(s).

Garden extensions can be harmful to the visual appearance and openness of the Green Belt, particularly where it leads to the erection of additional domestic buildings, fences, structures and other domestic paraphernalia.

Applications to extend domestic gardens beyond the current designation of the residential fringe will be considered and permitted only where the impact on the surrounding environment, or visual amenity (the value, attractiveness or desirability of a particular view) for neighbours or the public is minimal.

Proposals for extensions to domestic gardens in the Green Belt should not impinge on the openness or character of the Green Belt through the erection of fences, additional buildings and other built structures, consume valuable agricultural land (particularly that which is Grade 1 or 2), or cause unnecessary disturbance to natural areas which are of conservation importance.

(2) DM21 Extension of Domestic Gardens in the Green Belt – Preferred Option

Extensions to domestic gardens which currently reside within, or would encroach onto the designated Green Belt land, will only be permitted provided that:

  1. the proposal would ensure a defensible and robust Green Belt boundary, for example where the extension would infill the residential fringe inline with other gardens adjacent to the dwelling;
  2. the proposal would not impact on the openness or undeveloped character of the Green Belt;
  3. the proposal would not encroach on high quality agricultural land (particularly Grade 1 or 2); and
  4. the proposal would not adversely impact on the conservation value or protection of natural areas of local wildlife value, or sites of national and international importance.

Conservation Areas and the Green Belt

It is important to protect and enhance the character of Conservation Areas. Where a Conservation Area is situated within the Green Belt there is the potential for this objective to conflict with Green Belt objectives. A balance needs to be struck which allows for enhancements to the Conservation Area, whilst maintaining the openness of the Green Belt. As such, some redevelopment will be permitted in Conservation Areas within the Green Belt, provided this enhances the character and appearance of the Conservation Area.

The Council have produced Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan documents for the District’s ten Conservation Areas and any development within the Conservation Areas that lie in the Green Belt will be expected to contribute towards the recommendations within these, whilst seeking to minimise any impact on the openness of the Green Belt.

Replacement buildings should only be permitted where the existing structure is unsound, or the existing structure detracts from the character and appearance of the Conservation Area. Where a replacement is proposed, the building should be not be materially larger than the existing building, and should be consistent with the character and appearance of surrounding buildings in the Conservation Area.

In the case of employment operations, redevelopment should retain existing uses, where appropriate, or propose alternative employment uses if the new use would complement the surrounding land uses and have a positive impact on the appearance and value of the Conservation Area.

DM22 Conservation Areas and the Green Belt – Preferred Option

Redevelopment will be considered acceptable within Conservation Areas situated in the Green Belt, provided that:

  • It will make a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area and will contribute to the recommendations of the relevant Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan;
  • The use of the previous building is retained or is changed to one which is more appropriate in the Green Belt; and
  • The proposal does not undermine the purpose of including the land within the Green Belt and is such that the impact on the openness of the Green Belt has been minimised.

DM22 Conservation Areas and the Green Belt – Alternative Options

Option Why is it not preferred?
Only permit development which is on a one to one basis (for example the replacement of a B1 use building with a B1 use building). This is unnecessarily restrictive as alternative employment uses may be more appropriate to its location within the Conservation Area.
Do not permit redevelopment in Conservation Areas which reside within the Green Belt. This could undermine efforts and restrict opportunities to enhance the character and appearance of Conservation Areas.

(1) Are there any other issues which should be addressed within this chapter?


5  As defined in PPS76 Sport England guidance document available from: www.sportengland.org/7 PPG17 Annex
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