Green belt land is land that, generally speaking unless you have an exception, is impossible to build upon. Although there are some exceptions, such as being able to replace an existing building or building affordable housing (whatever that may mean as what counts as “affordable” may vary by area and according to the time that I write this.)

I have not found an exact answer to whether it’s possible to self-build a residential building. Are there legal exceptions for building a house on the same land that a non-residential building stands, on green belt land in England, if the new building is self-built and the person who builds it intends to live in the newly-built property (as that may make it affordable housing)?

  • Self built as in with your own two hands or by qualified builders whom you hire?
    – phoog
    Sep 21 at 18:06
  • @phoog For the sake of the arguement, either, but in particular self building by my own 2 hands Sep 21 at 19:29

1 Answer 1


The reason why you can't find an exact answer is because the only one able to answer this with any degree of certainty or accuracy is the local authority's planning department as different ones will have a different approach based on local necessities, requirements, pressures in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework which includes, at page 41:

Proposals affecting the Green Belt

  1. Inappropriate development is, by definition, harmful to the Green Belt and should not be approved except in very special circumstances.

  2. When considering any planning application, local planning authorities should ensure that substantial weight is given to any harm to the Green Belt. ‘Very special circumstances’ will not exist unless the potential harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm resulting from the proposal, is clearly outweighed by other considerations.

  3. A local planning authority should regard the construction of new buildings as inappropriate in the Green Belt. Exceptions to this are:

a) buildings for agriculture and forestry;

b) the provision of appropriate facilities (in connection with the existing use of land or a change of use) for outdoor sport, outdoor recreation, cemeteries and burial grounds and allotments; as long as the facilities preserve the openness of the Green Belt and do not conflict with the purposes of including land within it;

c) the extension or alteration of a building provided that it does not result in disproportionate additions over and above the size of the original building;

d) the replacement of a building, provided the new building is in the same use and not materially larger than the one it replaces;

e) limited infilling in villages;

f) limited affordable housing for local community needs under policies set out in the development plan (including policies for rural exception sites); and

g) limited infilling or the partial or complete redevelopment of previously developed land, whether redundant or in continuing use (excluding temporary buildings), which would:

‒ not have a greater impact on the openness of the Green Belt than the existing development; or

‒ not cause substantial harm to the openness of the Green Belt, where the development would re-use previously developed land and contribute to meeting an identified affordable housing need within the area of the local planning authority.

  1. Certain other forms of development are also not inappropriate in the Green Belt provided they preserve its openness and do not conflict with the purposes of including land within it. These are:

a) mineral extraction;

b) engineering operations;

c) local transport infrastructure which can demonstrate a requirement for a Green Belt location;

d) the re-use of buildings provided that the buildings are of permanent and substantial construction;

e) material changes in the use of land (such as changes of use for outdoor sport or recreation, or for cemeteries and burial grounds); and

f) development, including buildings, brought forward under a Community Right to Build Order or Neighbourhood Development Order.

  1. When located in the Green Belt, elements of many renewable energy projects will comprise inappropriate development. In such cases developers will need to demonstrate very special circumstances if projects are to proceed. Such very special circumstances may include the wider environmental benefits associated with increased production of energy from renewable sources.

The nature of construction may be persuasive but not definitive, it is (among other things) its architectural design and aesthetics that will matter to the planning officer.

This flow chart shows how it works.

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