In a case decided last week, the Court considered the application of paragraphs 87 and 88 of the NPPF, which relate to development in the Green Belt. The case hinged in particular on the meaning of “any other harm” in paragraph 88.

Paragraph 87 of the NPPF states that development in the Green Belt is inappropriate development and should not be approved except in very special circumstances. Paragraph 88 goes on to say that “‘very special circumstances’ will not exist unless the potential harm to the Green Belt, and any other harm, is clearly outweighed by other considerations”.

Redhill Aerodrome Limited had applied for planning permission to construct a hard runway to replace existing grass runways on Green Belt land. As the respondents in this appeal, Redhill argued that the words “any other harm” in paragraph 88 mean “any other harm to the Green Belt” and do not include any other harm relevant for planning purposes.

The Court of Appeal rejected this argument and held that the words referred to all harm relevant for planning purposes. The judge held that it would be illogical to exclude all non-Green Belt harms from the balancing exercise, when the assessment of whether very special circumstances exist includes the consideration of any non-Green Belt factors that weigh in favour of granting permission.

It was common ground between the parties that excluding non-Green Belt harm from “any other harm” would make it less difficult to obtain planning permission for development in the Green Belt. The judge commented that if the Government had intended such a significant change in policy, it is likely that there would have been a statement to that effect. On the contrary, all indications from Government pointed to an intention to keep protection of the Green Belt as a core planning principle without any change to the central policy.

(1) Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government (2) Tanbridge District Council (3) Reigate & Banstead Borough Council v Redhill Aerodrome Ltd [2014] EWCA Civ 1386