Publication Local Plan, Chapter 21: Green Belt and agriculture

Creating a fairer Salford by:

  • Protecting the Green Belt for future generations
  • Encouraging improved public access to the Green Belt, so that all residents can benefit from this resource

21.1 The fundamental aim of Green Belt policy, as identified in national planning policy, is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open. The Green Belt in Salford was originally designated in full in 1984, as part of the wider Greater Manchester Green Belt. As of March 2019 it measured 3,372 hectares, accounting for just over one-third of the total land area of the city. It is highly valued by residents, and hence its protection and enhancement is an important part of the spatial strategy for Salford.

21.2 This plan maintains the designation of the existing Green Belt in Salford, without any alterations to its boundaries. The need for any changes to the Green Belt, both in terms of land being removed or added to it, will be determined through the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework. This is because it is important to consider any Green Belt boundary changes in Salford as part of the overall strategy across Greater Manchester for accommodating development and combatting urban sprawl.

21.3 Given the extent of the Green Belt, it is vital that its various parts have positive roles that support the environmental, social and economic wellbeing of residents. The potential to deliver additional green infrastructure benefits is particularly significant, and increasing public access will be an important way of ensuring that all residents are able to directly benefit from the Green Belt. The approach to Chat Moss in Policy GI2 is a key part of this.

Policy GB1 Green Belt

The Green Belt within Salford is defined on the Policies Map. This Green Belt will be afforded strong protection in accordance with national planning policy.

The positive use of the Green Belt will be supported where this is consistent with its Green Belt status and the purposes of its designation. In particular, the enhancement of its green infrastructure functions will be encouraged, such as improved public access and habitat restoration, helping to deliver environmental and social benefits for the residents of Salford and providing the high quality green spaces that will support economic growth.

A positive approach will be taken to the provision of essential infrastructure within the Green Belt, where it would be consistent with maintaining the openness of the Green Belt and the purposes of including land within it.

Soils and agricultural land

21.4 As the national soil strategy explains:

“Soil is a fundamental natural resource on which life depends. It provides many essential services on which we rely including food production, water management and support for valuable biodiversity and ecosystems. As a large store of carbon it also plays a vital role in the fight against climate change.” [1]

21.5 Protecting soils must therefore be an important priority for this plan and is reflected in a number of policy areas including water (Chapter 18), climate change (Policy CC1), Green Belt and agriculture (Chapter 21), green infrastructure (Chapter 22), biodiversity and geodiversity (Chapter 23), and pollution control (Policy PH1).

21.6 The need to protect soils relates not just to land in agricultural use, but also to soils within the urban area, where the negative impacts of development on soil resources also need to be minimised.

21.7 High grade agricultural land is a precious and relatively scarce natural resource. Technical data from Defra indicates that there is around 1,800 hectares of the highest grade land (grades 1 and 2) in Salford, located entirely within and around Chat Moss, equating to 19% of the city’s land area. Salford has around 83% of all grade 1 agricultural land in Greater Manchester, although it accounts for just 0.45% of such land within England as a whole. This high grade agricultural land is in a variety of uses, with a significant amount of arable activity as well as horticulture, turf growing, hobby farming, equestrian uses, woodland, a golf course, fishing lakes, designated nature conservation sites, habitat restoration, and fallow land.

21.8 Given its potential importance for food production, the loss of higher grade land should normally be avoided wherever possible. However, a key environmental priority for Salford is the restoration of the Biodiversity Heartland in Chat Moss to lowland raised bog and complementary habitats, which would deliver nature conservation benefits and enhance the function of the area as a carbon sink. This is likely to involve the loss of some high grade land, although it would not preclude its return to agriculture in the future if there was an urgent need.

21.9 Given the location and nature of high grade soils in Salford, where land is used for agriculture it will be important to ensure that this supports wider environmental objectives, such as minimising greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing biodiversity.

Policy GB2 Soils and agricultural land

Development shall safeguard and utilise on-site soil resources where practicable, maximising the retention of its environmental functions, in accordance with the Defra code of practice for the sustainable use of soils on construction sites.

The loss of agricultural land shall be avoided wherever possible. Where development of agricultural land is proposed, it shall be demonstrated that:

  1. Preference has been given to the use of lower grade land; and
  2. The scale of loss has been minimised.

The positive use of agricultural land for farming and agri-environmental schemes will be encouraged. The use of agricultural land shall seek to protect soil quality, minimise soil erosion, retain landscape features such as ponds and hedgerows, and maximise wider environmental benefits.

Farm diversification

21.10 Diversifying into non-agricultural activities can maintain the commercial viability of farm enterprises, supporting the wider rural economy and helping to ensure that profitable agricultural uses are retained. However, it is important that small-scale agricultural-related uses that are often not profitable in their own right, such as hobby farming, are not used to justify non-agricultural developments that would be better located elsewhere.

21.11 There is the potential for farm diversification proposals to negatively impact on neighbouring land uses. For example, some activities could affect local drainage, which in turn could impact on the agricultural potential of nearby land, important wildlife habitats or lowland raised bog restoration. Many of the roads within Chat Moss are of relatively poor quality, and so accessibility is likely to be a considerable constraint on the location, scale and nature of farm diversification, with significant traffic generation unlikely to be appropriate.

Policy GB3 Farm diversification

Farm diversification projects that support the rural economy will be permitted, particularly where they enhance public access to the Green Belt, provided that:

  1. They support the long-term future of an established agricultural enterprise that has demonstrated profitability over a prolonged period;
  2. The scale of development is consistent with the rural location;
  3. There would be no unacceptable impact on the openness of the Green Belt;
  4. There would be no unacceptable impact on the use of surrounding land, including soils in accordance with Policy GB2; and
  5. The level of traffic generation would be consistent with the rural location and the quality of the local roads.

New dwellings in the Green Belt

21.12 Strict controls are required to avoid unnecessary built development within the Green Belt, which could harm its openness, and so it will be necessary to demonstrate a genuine, long-term functional need for any new dwellings in the Green Belt. They will only be appropriate where they are specifically required to accommodate those working in rural-based enterprises such as agriculture and forestry, and there are no realistic housing alternatives available in the local area.

21.13 Where a new dwelling is permitted, it will be necessary to ensure that it is only occupied by people employed within the occupations that have justified its construction. Otherwise, it might be used for general market housing, which could then make it necessary to permit additional dwellings for those working in rural enterprises, leading to a gradual urbanisation of Salford’s Green Belt. Such restrictions will only be removed where there is clear evidence that there is no longer a demand for the properties from people within the specified occupations.

21.14 It is also important to ensure that the land uses that justify the provision of new dwellings do not become separated from those dwellings as a result of subsequent sales. This is because the same land could then potentially be used to justify the need for a further new dwelling, again leading to an unnecessary increase in urban features within the Green Belt.

Policy GB4 Agricultural, forestry and other occupational dwellings within the Green Belt

New permanent dwellings to support agriculture, forestry or other activities acceptable in the Green Belt will only be permitted where:

  1. There is a clearly established existing functional need for the dwelling;
  2. The need relates to a full-time worker, or one who is primarily employed in the activity generating the need, and does not relate to a part-time requirement;
  3. The unit and the activity concerned:
    1. Have been established for at least three years;
    2. Have been profitable for at least one of the last three years; and
    3. Have a clear prospect of remaining profitable in the future;
  4. The functional need could not be fulfilled by another existing dwelling on the unit, or any other existing accommodation in the area which is suitable and available for occupation by the workers concerned; and
  5. The dwelling is of a size commensurate with the established functional requirement, and is not unusually large in relation to the needs of the unit.

Where there is some uncertainty over the financial basis of the enterprise, it may be possible to justify a temporary dwelling for a period of up to three years to allow it to establish its long-term profitability.

Where a new dwelling has been justified on the basis of a functional need to house someone working in agriculture, forestry or other activities acceptable in the Green Belt, a planning condition will be used to control its occupancy for that purpose. Where appropriate, a planning obligation will be used to ensure that the dwelling is not severed from the land the use of which justifies its construction.

A condition restricting the occupancy of a dwelling to certain types of worker, such as those involved in agriculture, forestry and/or other activities acceptable in the Green Belt, will only be removed where it can be clearly demonstrated that there is no demand for the dwelling from people who would comply with the occupancy condition. Evidence must be provided that the dwelling has been widely marketed over a period of at least 12 months for both sale and rent at a price that reflects the occupancy condition, including directly approaching local rural employers, and that any reasonable offers have not been rejected.


[1] Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) (2009) Safeguarding our Soils: A Strategy for England, paragraph 2

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