Getting Planning Permission in Green Belt and the Countryside

“I want to make an offer on someone’s garden with a view to building on it. Thing is, they’re outside the village development boundary. Will I get planning permission?”
Generally, no chance. The construction of a new building outside a settlement boundary is usually not permitted. However, as an exception, there are some opportunities to develop outside the boundary if it involves the replacement of an existing dwelling, a barn conversion or is for affordable housing.

“I want to become a farmer and build a farmhouse in the countryside”

Yes, you’ve got a chance. Under the Paragraph 79 of the NPPF the development of a new dwelling in the countryside will be permitted under special circumstances where an agricultural worker needs to live on the site of their enterprise. You would, however, need to demonstrate an essential need based on a proven agricultural business use — for example, a need to live on site to tend to livestock around the clock. The wording of the Paragraph is vague however. There’s some good insight on the issue here.

“I want to buy a house in the countryside and replace it with something much bigger”
Yes and no. Permission to rebuild an existing house is usually acceptable; however, the size allowed depends on numerous factors such as the local policies in the area, the size of the site and the impact on the surrounding area. Generally an increase in size by 30% is considered reasonable, but check with the local planning authority first. One key thing to remember is that Permitted Development (PD) rights have now changed so large extensions in the majority of cases are now possible without planning permission (see below).

“I want to build a house on a virgin site in the middle of open countryside”
Very little chance. A very few number have been granted permission, but these have been for unique homes in respect of design, scale and architecture. Even so, not every bespoke design or concept is suitable. The process is vastly complex, costly, with no guarantee of success. This would require the assistance of a specialist planning consultant with knowledge of this type of project and, therefore, would be able to provide a robust case.

Building a Sustainable Home

“I want to generate all my own electricity from on-site renewables”

Yes, you have a good chance. There is scope to generate your own electricity within the curtilage of your property under the recent amendment to the General Permitted Development Order (GDPO) (England only) on the installation of domestic microgeneration equipment. This allows you to put up certain electricity generating equipment such as solar panels and heat power systems; however, they would be restricted by criteria such as size, height, distance from the boundary of the property and conservation status.

So, whilst there is potential to generate your electricity needs through sustainable methods, this will depend on the size of your house and plot, and therefore the size and type of equipment used. Wind turbines are not currently included within the recent GDPO amendements and require an application.

Changes to Existing Buildings and Homes

“I own an ordinary terraced home but want to build a modern glass extension”

Yes, you probably can. Following the recent changes to Permitted Development (PD) rights, there is now greater scope to do a lot more in terms of extensions. The parameters set down (BELOW) generally focus on the size and location of an extension; however, materials must be in keeping with those used on the existing property. Subject to a planning application, a glass extension may be considered acceptable.

Changes to Permitted Development (PD)Rights

You are allowed to extend or add to your home without the need for planning permission, providing that you meet set criteria. The criteria relates to limits on size and height of the proposal, its position and its proximity to the boundaries of your plot. For example:

  • No extension should be higher than the highest part of the roof.
  • Max. depth of a single storey rear extension on an attached house to be 6m and 8m on a detached house.
  • Max. height of a single storey rear extension of 4m.
  • Max. eaves height of an extension of 3m, within 2m of the boundary.
  • Two storey extensions no closer than 7m to rear boundary.
  • Side extensions to be single storey, no more than half the width of the original house and max. height of 4m.

Restrictions on designated land apply. Be aware you will, however, need planning permission if you want to build closer to a highway, or if more than half of your plot would be covered by additions.

“I want to knock down my semi-detached home for access to the garden, and build a detached home on the land”

Yes, you can. Demolition of a dwelling does not generally require planning permission unless it is within a protected area such as a Conservation Area or if the building is listed. Whilst the demolition of half of a semi-detached dwelling is not unheard of, various rules in respect of Building Regulations and the Party Wall Act 1996 will need to be adhered to.

In terms of the creation of a new detached dwelling and access, this is again possible subject to certain criteria. These will include site-specific considerations such as the impact on the built form of the area, the street scene, noise and neighbouring properties.

“I have an old barn on my land. I want to convert it into a dwelling”

Yes, you’ve got a good chance. At present, most local authorities will permit a barn conversion so long as it is in accordance with specific criteria (BELOW). The criteria will relate to issues such as the stability and soundness of the existing structure, impact on the highway, the character of the surroundings and the sustainability of the location. Many authorities seek to promote business/commercial uses before residential uses, so you need to prove that the site is unviable for such a use.

Read more about barn conversions and permitted development.

Barn Conversions

General criteria for the reuse and adaptation of rural buildings (barn conversions) for residential purposes include the following:

  • Reasonable attempts to secure suitable employment or community reuse of the building must have been tried.
  • The building must be permanent, substantial and structurally sound.
  • The design must be in keeping with the area.
  • Traffic generated must be safely accommodated by the site access and local road network. Not impacting on the area’s character.
  • Appropriate parking must be provided on site.

“I want to build a house different to that which has been approved”

Yes, there’s a good chance. As there is already planning permission for the site, this provides a precedent for the development of a dwelling. It is possible to reapply to amend the scheme with another application to allow your design ideas to be incorporated. This would be subject to the nature of the site, the area and local planning policies.

“My home’s listed, but I want to add a modern extension”

You do have a chance. Precedence and guidance indicates that the creation of an extension that shows significant imagination and would not deter from the ‘special’ nature of the listed building may be successful in gaining listed building consent and planning permission. The use of a contemporary design would be applicable to show the transition between the historic and modern elements. This is to ensure that any addition would not compete with the original structure. In this case, design, massing and the use of materials is key.

* Article updated July 2016

Articles like this Comments
  • sambrow46

    I have just started to build a granny annex with plans that were submitted in 2007 and didnt need approval via the permitted development scheme (2.5 metres to eaves and 4 metres in total height). The annex is at the bottom of my 120ft garden. The new changes in the maximum height within a 2 metre boundary now mean I need planning permission – my attached neighbour has already contacted the enforcement dept to object. Do I have a chance with the original plan to still go to 4 metres with the roof?

  • Dave Dutton

    I have sourced a plot, ideal for my contemporary eco-home, not far from where I live, the downside is, it is now classed as greenbelt by the council. Originally there was a restaurant on the site but the current owner demolished this several years ago and the site was leveled about 3 years ago. The owner did get permission to re build on the site but that expired before he started and he was told he could get a legal notice but has not done so.

    The council are now receiving complaints from neighbors regarding a site hut and a large container that have been there for several years. The site is not secure anymore and the planning committee will be meeting this month to decide what action to take.

    I have asked the local planning officer if the site could be used as residential dwellings over 1 storey but was told that permission would not be granted as is greenbelt now and the current owner would be the only person entitled, through a legal notice to develop the site as a restaurant again.

    I argued that surely, if it was once classed as brown-belt and given it’s current state that it would be beneficial to all to develop as an eco-friendly family dwelling which would reduce pollution by both the carbon foot print and the comings and goings of diners, this did not seem to cut much ice. So you can see my predicament, it’s a beautiful spot crying out to be developed sympathetically with the surrounding environment. Can you give me some direction as to if this is a lost cause or something I should fight for ?

  • Martin Lavercombe

    In August this year we applied to Stratford on Avon Council, for a single storey rear extension to our cottage (app no, 09/01659/FUL) ;

    The cottage is in a conservation area but is not listed.
    We have the written support from neighbours on both sides and 4 other submissions from other locals, all supporting the application.
    The Parish Council have neither objected or supported.
    The Conservation Team did not formally object but stated, "provided the ridge height of any new elements are kept at least 500mm below the ridge height, I would have no objections."

    The target date was 19th October, they have published photos marked Confidential, not for publication on website, posted the site notice in the wrong place (Twice) and the site visit notes have still not been posted on the web!
    We have also had a site visit from County Ecology and the County Archaeologist has been contacted reference the application. again neither objected.

    I complained about the delays to the Head of Planning (03 Nov). He replied, "I acknowledge your message which I will discuss with the relevant officers before responding." then the case officer said that he was going to refuse under delegated powers.

    The Conservation Architect (who retired in July 09 supported a previous application with a higher ridge height. The current proposals are for a 4m gap between the existing and then a ridge at the same height as the thatched roof at the front. I telephoned the Conservation officer who posted the comments and explained that the ridge height would enable us to; move the TV Ariel from the chimney at the front, position a satelite dish out of site and have a roof area that was in sufficient direct sunlight to position solar hot water panels at a later date. He spoke to the case officer to amend his comments.

    However, a week later the case officer sent me the email below;

    Mr Lavercombe,

    Apologies for the delay but I must have your mobile down incorrectly.

    However, I have spoken to Allen Firth Conservation Officer and whilst if the Conservation Concerns was the only objection he may be willing to concede because of my other concerns he has stipulated that he would like to see the ridge height lower than the main house as we discussed. I will therefore proceed to refuse the application as it stands but as per our earlier conversation I am willing to try and meet and discuss flat roof options.


    Gary Moss

    We feel that the application has been singled out for deeper scrutiny and will be refused because of our complaints.

    What should we do?

    Martin Lavercombe

  • Allen Shepherd

    The current rear of the house has a single skin tennament construction with a two storey projecting about 2.5m from the main house (Kitchen at the ground floor level and a single bedroom at the first floor level) and a further 2.5m ( making 5m in total rear projection) at the ground floor level only ( Bathroom). What are the chances of maintaining the footprint all the way up while at the same time creating a double skin contruction – bringing it into line with current Building regs. The whole building dates back to 1864 .

  • Anonymous

    we own two terrace houses and immedaitley beind there is an 11ft wide service road.The terrace houses ar a row of 3. we wish 2 build two town houses in the existing garderns, however.. my neighbour wil object 2 this.. he is the onlt neighbour we have ..could he ruin our chances of getting permission?

  • StevieG

    We have photographs of a small pre-fab cottage in our field, near our main house. The cottage site is now occupied by stables (wooden) but wonder if the fact that there was a previous house on the site would mean a better chance of getting planning permission to build a new house.

    We live in a rural area.

    What are our chances?

  • Anonymous

    Iown a old water pump ststion freehold it sits outside of the boundry line on that side of the road houses other side it has commercial use on it which at the moment is an office store room acess allowed on to road water septic tank parking area i have been told i have no chance of it passing for a bungalow because its the wrong side of the road.

  • Amanda Sutherland

    We have a plot of land that is adjacent to our house and we would like to build on it, can we obtain planning permission without having any plans. Also if our plot is outside of the development boundary for the village would this be a problem, we live in Horam, East Sussex.

  • David Furness

    We own a field which is now classed as open countryside adjacent to our house. It previously had cottages and buildings on it. The foundations of at least 1 cottage are still visible. Is this likely to improve our chances of planning permission on this site and is there any case law on this matter.

  • Hazel Heal

    We are in the process of the planning application for a Farm Workers House on our Farm in Somerset (Mendip DC) and they want our Partnership Financial Accounts to go public as part of this process. We don’t want this, but are we able to say no without causing more delays in our application decision.
    Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Thankyou Hazel

  • henry mcinulty

    we have a large garden plot attached to our semi detached house. Unfortunately our house and garden have been classified as both greenbelt and outside of the village boundary. We believe that this demarcation is wrong and that it should be classed as an infill plot. The dicotomie we now have is that the local county council are drawing up the local plan , do we try and get our land included or do we apply for planning before the local plan is finalized. Just worried that if we do not get included in the new draft plan that any application will be refused because of this. We have strong support from both our councillors and county councillor , was hoping that if it went to a committe decision that they would see the merit of our appeal. There have been other properties built within a mile of us that were both in greenbelt and classed as being outside the village boundary that were passed as infill plots. Ours is cited next to an allotment with the other house next to ours being 50 feet away. Any help or advice on which avenue to try would be great. The local plan is estimated to commence in Sptember.

  • Amanda Sutherland

    We have a barn in one of our fields, this does not look over anyone. we want to convert this into a 4 bedroom house for us and sell the house that we are in. The problem is that we are just outside of the planning belt. looking at the internet is states that we should be ok as long as we keep within the footprint, however we want to raise the roof and widen the barn, how would we go about getting permission for this and do you think it would go thorugh

  • Lindsey Davis

    Hi Henry,
    Try posting your question in our Q&A section ( where someone with planning expertise or a similar experience to yours may be able to answer.

  • Lindsey Davis

    Hi Amanda,

    Have you read our piece on the changes to Permitted Development where barns are concerned? (

    From my reading of it, you can convert up to 450sqm of it into habitable space. However, whilst you can make a fair few changes to the fabric of the building, expansion will be an issue.

    Also, as we mention in that piece, if your plans do not seem to cohere to the Barn Conversion Clause (in Class MB) then plans will be taken on a case by case basis, so you could be applying for planning permission of sorts to get it clarified.

    Contacting your local authority is usually the best place to start if you are unsure.


  • Elaine Halsall

    My back garden is large enough to build a small dormer bungalow. However the shape is a problem. It is rectangular with a triangular bit at one end. There is currently a detached double garage on the plot.i spoke to an architect yesterday and he said that a new house would require a 70 sq metre private garden.The triangular part of the garden would be the new private garden as I want to build as big a house as I can on the rectangular area.The triangular bit is about 40 sq metres. Is the 70 sq meter rule set in stone? What about if I build using the garage footprint, would that make a difference?

  • Steve Jobar

    We would like to rebuild the Western gate house on the estate, this house was demolished some years ago. The main mason house is listed and in 300 acres of park land. The East gate house is still occupied and locals say it resembles the Western house that they remember being occupied by a estate worker. We do not have any pictures of this house. Does this need a new planning application or is there some lenience with this history.

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