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Safeguarding is a planning mechanism that is employed to ensure land which has been identified for development in the future is protected from conflicting development. It may be applied in local development plans, in particular in relation to protection of the green belt, or safeguarding directions may be made in relation to significant infrastructure projects.
Annex 2 of Planning Policy Guidance Note 2: Green Belt, (PPG2) used to set out policy in relation to safeguarding, however, this was revoked with the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework in 2012.
PPG2 stated that:
‘When local planning authorities prepare new or revised structure and local plans, any proposals affecting Green Belts should be related to a time-scale which is longer than that normally adopted for other aspects of the plan. They should satisfy themselves that Green Belt boundaries will not need to be altered at the end of the plan period. In order to ensure protection of Green Belts within this longer timescale, this will in some cases mean safeguarding land between the urban area and the Green Belt which may be required to meet longer-term development needs….’
‘Safeguarded land comprises areas and sites which may be required to serve development needs in the longer term, i.e. well beyond the plan period. It should be genuinely capable of development when needed. Safeguarded land should be located where future development would be an efficient use of land, well integrated with existing development, and well related to public transport and other existing and planned infrastructure, so promoting sustainable development…. Development plans should … make clear that the land is not allocated for development at the present time, and keep it free to fulfil its purpose of meeting possible longer-term development needs. No development which would prejudice later comprehensive development should be permitted (though temporary developments may assist in ensuring that the land is properly looked after).’
The National Planning Policy Framework, which revoked PPG2 states that:
‘Safeguarded Land is land between the urban area and the Green Belt. This land … is treated in a similar way to Green Belt except that its protection is not necessarily guaranteed beyond the plan period. Safeguarded Land ensures the protection of Green Belt within the longer time-scale by reserving land which may be required to meet longer-term development needs without the need to alter Green Belt boundaries…. When defining green belt boundaries, local planning authorities should make clear that the safeguarded land is not allocated for development at the present time. Planning permission for the permanent development of safeguarded land should only be granted following a Local Plan review which proposes the development…’
The NPPF also defines:
- Mineral Safeguarding Areas: Areas designated by Minerals Planning Authorities which cover known deposits of minerals to be kept safeguarded from unnecessary sterilisation by non-mineral development.
- Safeguarding zone: An area defined in Circular 01/03: Safeguarding aerodromes, technical sites and military explosives storage areas, to safeguard such sites.
 Safeguarding directions
Safeguarding directions can be made under the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2010. Safeguarding directions ensure that land which has been designated for major infrastructure projects is protected from conflicting developments before construction starts.
On 9 July 2013, the Secretary of State for Transport announced that safeguarding directions had been issued for the majority of the phase one route of HS2 between London and the West Midlands.
On 29 October 2014, the Mayor of London announced that he may seek safeguarding direction for crossrail 2. Planning Resource, Mayor to seek safeguarding direction for Crossrail 2 route.
The Town and Country Planning Act defines ‘Blighted land’ as, ‘Land which is identified for the purposes of relevant public functions by a development plan document for the area in which the land is situated.’ Under certain conditions, owner-occupiers or mortgagees of blighted land may be able to require the relevant authority to purchase their interests in the land.
The issuing of a safeguarding direction gives rise to 'statutory blight'.
NB In 2014, Planning minister Nick Boles said, “I have to confess that for several months at the beginning of my time in this post, I, too, was somewhat confused about whether it was ‘safeguarded for’ or ‘safeguarded from’”. Ref Planning Resource, Boles defends councils making 'painful and difficult' decisions over green belt, 14 May 2014.
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