Know your AGLV from your SSI, CLT and Green Belt?

Reproduced from the Haslemere Herald, 4th July 2019, with their kind permission.

Significant and controversial housing development proposals are emerging everywhere, and there has been much reference to official land designations.  But do we understand the difference between brown field, AONB, AVLG, Green Belt and so on?  Martin James, the deputy chairman of the Haslemere Community Land Trust, guides us through the minefield…


Where do you stand on land in and around Haslemere? It is a question being asked with increasing frequency and urgency as major development proposals are brought forward. And, as discussions, consultations and controversies increase, it can appear that establishing quite where you stand is no simple matter. 

For while your feet may seem planted on an apparently insignificant and familiar stretch of ground, you could at the same time have one foot in an AONB, the other in an AGLV, and also be slap-bang in the Green Belt. It’s a minefield.  

To most people, most of the time, these unmarked classifications overlapping and crisscrossing our landscape seem as irrelevant as they are unobserved – and it is only when change is suggested that the public sits up, takes notice and says: “Hang on, what’s all this about Field A? I walk my dog up there!” or, perhaps, “Hey, I hear there’s going to be some affordable housing built there – might be a chance for our son and his smelly gym kit to move out and get their own home!”   

Whatever planning issue arises, those widely mystifying initials and land descriptions are likely to crop up and then you might find it useful to know your Brownfield Site from your Strategic Gap, and so on. This lay person’s guide provides a few stepping-stones towards the knowledge and language of the planners and developers. 

AONB is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Nationally designated. Any development must respect and conserve the character of the landscape.

AGLV is an Area of Great Landscape Value. Locally designated. Complementary and usually overlapping or next to AONB, and subject to similar policies aiming to ensure the character of the landscape is protected.

ASVI is an Area of Strategic Visible Importance. Open land that stretches into urban area and prevents settlements coalescing.

SSSI is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Protected area, such as important wildlife habitat.

Settlement Boundary is the line defining the limits of a town or village, generally allowing for development within but not without.  

Metropolitan Green Belt is the zone of largely undeveloped land surrounding London. Development only in very special circumstances. 

Greenfield Site is an urban or rural area hitherto undeveloped thus virgin territory for development.

Brownfield Site is an urban or rural area previously developed. Municipal, domestic or industrial site for demolition and development, or conversion.  

Strategic Gap is an uncultivated area between settlements to prevent them merging and to protect their separate identities.  

Rural Exception Site is land normally just outside a village settlement boundary where affordable housing can be built.

CLT is a Community Land Trust, a form of community-led housing, set up and run by ordinary local people to develop and manage homes as well as other assets. 


Haslemere Community Land Trust is a not-for-profit community benefit society working to provide affordable homes for local people. Haslemere is a lovely town, with excellent transport links and glorious countryside – but such desirability has led to high property prices that mean many young residents and modestly paid workers are locked out of the housing market and often have to move away. A lack of social-housing provision only adds to the problem. Haslemere CLT can build housing that remains affordable for ever, and will be sited and constructed only with the support of local people. To join or learn more visit haslemereclt.org.uk

Over 3,500 community led homes at risk

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that Over 3,500 community led homes at risk if Government doesn’t put things right.

Late last year the National CLT Network submitted a Freedom of Information request to Homes England. This revealed that there are over 3,500 community led homes in the Community Housing Fund pipeline. This is an exciting prospect considering it’s been less than nine months since the fund was opened. But many could be scuppered unless the Community Housing Fund is extended.

The Community Housing Fund, outside of London, is due to close for bids in December 2019. Most of the groups bringing forward those 3,500 homes will need access to capital funding for their affordable homes into next year and beyond, if they’re to get those homes completed.

The number might seem small in the scheme of things. But these are homes being developed to meet very particular needs communities. They matter, and the people behind them will be devastated if the Government pulls the rug from under them.

Groups building standard types of affordable housing like affordable rent and shared ownership will still be able to bid for the mainstream affordable homes funding. But innovative approaches won’t qualify, and new groups will lose access to unique revenue funding to develop their plans. Frankly, ending the Fund so quickly will be a farce!

The National CLT Network lobbied for and secured this fund in 2016. After a rocky start, it helped the Government design the current programme, and persuade them to aim not just to build some homes but to grow the community led housing movement. The network is steadily building the expertise and capacity in communities and the wider housing industry for this to be much more mainstream.

It was always envisioned that this would be a five-year fund. That would give groups the time to develop their projects, and the sector time to grow, But delays have meant this part of the Fund will only be open to bids for 18 months. A turnaround time like this would be tricky for seasoned housing developers never mind CLTs, which are mostly powered by volunteers. This isn’t taking into consideration the quite lengthy process to register as a social housing provider, which some CLTs may decide to go through.

Last week, London’s Community Housing Fund was announced. The GLA operates separate systems to Homes England, and they’ve done a fantastic job adapting the fund to the capital. The news was all the sweeter because in London the Fund stays open until 2023. Great news for Londoners, but not very fair for groups in the rest of England.

The Haslemere CLT has written to our local Member of Parliament, Jeremy Hunt.