Planning Constraints

As part of the process of determining a planning application, there are a number of constraints we have to take into account.

The majority of the district’s countryside is part of the Metropolitan Green Belt, which encircles London.

The Green Belt has been the main instrument behind the strict control of new development in Surrey and Mole Valley for many years.

The Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) indicates that ‘the fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open; the essential characteristics of Green Belts are their openness and their permanence’.

Strict control of development in the Green Belt has helped to protect the character of Mole Valley.

The quality of the countryside is highly valued, and tight controls on new developments are therefore required.

This is particularly important as Mole Valley continues to experience great pressure for new development for reasons related to its attractive environment and its accessibility to large centres of population.

We aim to maintain the open nature of the countryside within the Green Belt by preventing urban encroachment. Inappropriate development within the Green Belt will be resisted.

The policies of the Mole Valley Core Strategy and Mole Valley Local Plan (see Adopted Planning Policy) exercise strict control on new development in the Green Belt.

We often get calls from customers who are being offered the “chance” to buy a piece of land within the Green Belt, with a view to building a new dwelling.

Please be aware that the development of new dwellings within the Green Belt is contrary to national and local planning policies, and will not be granted planning permission.

Natural England has a statutory power to designate land as a National Landscape (formerly Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, AONB).

The Surrey Hills National Landscape  covers part of Mole Valley.

We give special attention to planning proposals in the National Landscape to ensure that the special character of the landscape is protected, in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Similar attention is also given to the areas of adjacent landscape designated as Areas of Great Landscape Value (AGLV).

Together, these areas make up about one-third of the area of Mole Valley, covering principally the chalk slopes of the North Downs and the Greensand Hills.

If you live in the Surrey Hills National Landscape, you will need to apply for planning permission for certain types of work that do not require an application in other areas.

The Mole Gap to Reigate Escarpment Special Area of Conservation (SAC) is an area of Europe-wide significance for its nature conservation value.

It covers 888 hectares of the North Downs, including

  • Norbury Park
  • Headley Heath
  • White Down
  • Box Hill.

Further development in the vicinity of the SAC needs to be carefully managed, to ensure that important features are not placed at risk by increased recreational pressure.

For this reason, Core Strategy Policy CS15 safeguards a buffer zone extending 800m beyond the boundary of the SAC.

Within the buffer zone, there is ‘a presumption against any increase in residential or employment related development … unless its impact can be mitigated’.

The Special Area of Conservation Guidance Note (see Supplementary Planning Documents, Guidance and Policy Statements) applies to development within the buffer zone, as well as to major developments just beyond that distance.

The guidance identifies the main risks to the special nature conservation interests, the information that should be provided with planning applications, and the steps that we will take to make sure that proposed development does not harm the SAC.

The Thames Basin Heaths, which cover parts of Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire, are a rare example of lowland heathland, and are home to three important bird species.

The heaths are protected by international law as a Special Protection Area (SPA).

However, areas around the Thames Basin Heaths are subject to pressure for new housing development, and Natural England has determined that the cumulative effects of developments pose a potential long-term problem for these habitats.

An explanatory note sets out how proposals for new housing development in parts of Mole Valley may be required to provide measures to mitigate impacts on the SPA.

We have statutory powers to control changes within Conservation Areas.

More information can be found on the Conservation Areas page.

Article 4 directions are made when the character of an area of acknowledged importance would be threatened.

Some permitted development rights may be removed by an Article 4 direction, or a restrictive condition placed on the original permission for your house or estate.

This means that a planning application may be needed for work that normally would have been permitted development.

More information can be found on the Conservation Areas page.

All of the non-immediate Article 4 Directions previously issued by Mole Valley District Council removing the permitted development rights for change of use from Office to Residential have now expired. No new ones have been issued restricting the new permitted development right from Class E (Commercial, Business and Service) to Class C3 (Residential), which came into force in 2021.

Visit the Listed Buildings page for more information.

Applicants are advised to discuss proposals with us before an application is made.

Other constraints in Mole Valley include those relating to:

More information regarding the policies in force in Mole Valley can be found on the Adopted Planning Policy Documents page.

The Ashtead, Bookham, Capel (parish wards of Beare Green, Capel and Coldharbour) and Westcott Neighbourhood Plans now form part of the Development Plan for Mole Valley.

More information about each plan can be found on the Neighbourhood Planning page.

If you wish to make a planning application, all of the appropriate application forms can be found on the ‘Planning Application Forms and Fees‘ page.

For more information call 01306 885001, or email