Planning permissions outside of a settlement boundary

At Plainview Planning we specialise in securing consents for sites outside of settlement boundaries.

What is a settlement boundary?

It is normally a line drawn around a settlement in the Proposals Map of a Local Plan. The Local Plan generally allows for development within the boundary and resists development outside.

What is the background to settlement boundaries?

A lot of focus is given to “settlement boundaries” but the phrase is not mentioned once in the National Planning Policy Framework. Instead, national guidance dictates that isolated homes should be avoided.

The fact that your site may be the wrong side of an arbitrary line does not mean that the site is isolated.

I’ve been told my site conflicts with a Local Plan policy. What should I do?

Planning decisions should be made in accordance with the Local Plan unless material considerations dictate otherwise.

Further to this, a Local Plan (and national guidance) should be read as a whole. It is not unusual for Local Plan policies to pull in different directions.

For example, a proposed development may accord with Local Plan policies which encourage residential development, and yet be contrary to policies which seek to protect open countryside. In such cases there may be no clear cut answer to the question: “is this proposal in accordance with the plan?” The local authority has to make a judgement bearing in mind factors such as the importance of the policies which are complied with or infringed.

2 minute planning question and answer form

Isolated homes in the countryside? What does it mean?

If outside a settlement boundary then paragraph 79 of the NPPF is often cited – this seeks to resist isolated dwellings in the countryside. But what does this mean in practice?

The definition of isolated was clarified in Braintree District Council v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Ors [2018] EWCA Civ 610. It determined that ‘isolation’ should be defined by its ordinary meaning in the NPPF (paragraph 79, previously paragraph 55) ; it does not need any further interpretation. Essentially, this considers whether development is physically separate/apart from other built form or not.

“What constitutes a settlement for these purposes is also left undefined in the NPPF. The NPPF contains no definitions of a “community”, a “settlement”, or a “village”. There is no specified minimum number of dwellings, or population. It is not said that a settlement or development boundary must have been fixed in an adopted or emerging local plan, or that only the land and buildings within that settlement or development boundary will constitute the settlement. In my view a settlement would not necessarily exclude a hamlet or a cluster of dwellings, without, for example, a shop or post office of its own, or a school or community hall or a public house nearby, or public transport within easy reach. Whether, in a particular case, a group of dwellings constitutes a settlement, or a “village”, for the purposes of the policy will again be a matter of fact and planning judgment for the decision-maker. In the second sentence of paragraph 55 the policy acknowledges that development in one village may “support services” in another. It does not stipulate that, to be a “village”, a settlement must have any “services” of its own, let alone “services” of any specified kind.”
The Braintree decision was revisited in 2021 in City & Country Bramshill Ltd v Secretary of State for Housing, Communities And Local Government & Ors [2021] EWCA Civ 320 (09 March 2021):

“Fortunately, we are not faced with having to interpret the paragraph 79 policy. That has already been done by this court in Braintree District Council – though for the predecessor policy in paragraph 55 of the 2012 version of the NPPF. In Braintree District Council the central issue in the appeal was the meaning of the expression “new isolated homes in the countryside”. In this case, the contentious phrase – now in paragraph 79 – is simply “isolated homes in the countryside”. In substance, however, the policy is unchanged. There is, therefore, no need for any further discussion of what is meant by the concept of “isolated homes in the countryside” in this policy. The essential conclusion of this court in Braintree District Council, in paragraph 42 of the judgment, is that in determining whether a particular proposal is for “isolated homes in the countryside”, the decision-maker must consider “whether [the development] would be physically isolated, in the sense of being isolated from a settlement”. What is a “settlement” and whether the development would be “isolated” from a settlement are both matters of planning judgment for the decision-maker on the facts of the particular case.”

How do Plainview Planning add value?

A key part of our role is to set out material considerations as to why consent should be granted and to assist the planning officer in giving correct weight to the key issues.

Our planning applications incorporate robust arguments which seek to effectively demonstrate why your site represents sustainable development.

Case studies

+ 3 homes outside settlement boundary despite up to date Local Plan and 5 year housing supply 

+ 3 live/work dwellings in open countryside

+ 4 contemporary homes outside settlement boundary 

+ 4 homes outside settlement boundary in grounds of Listed Building 

If you have a site you think might be suitable for development and require professional planning support then contact the team via or call us on 01242 501003 to see how we can best assist you, providing the site address and a brief overview of your project.  You can also submit your site via our Landmark Page. We value your privacy and any information which you provide will not be shared outside of our company and will only be used in relation to your enquiry.