Extracts from the Land Use Change Statistics Guidance

Land is a finite resource. While some land can only be used for a limited range of purposes, other land can accommodate many potentially competing uses. The amounts of land used for each purpose are constantly changing and the nature and extent of these changes are of crucial importance for those developing, implementing or monitoring planning policies. Issues that are currently of particular interest include:

  • the proportion of new housing that is on previously developed land;
  • the transfer of agricultural land to housing or other development;
  • the development of vacant land in urban areas; and
  • the density of new developments.

Land Use Categories


The previous and new uses of a parcel of land are each recorded as one of 24 land use categories. Sites are subdivided if necessary to achieve this. For the purposes of analysis the land use categories can be combined into ten land use groups. In publications, land use changes are presented at this level, with the 'vacant' group split between previously developed (categories V and Z), and not previously developed (category X).

Previously developed land Group Category (codes)


  • Residential (R)
  • Institutional and communal (Q) accommodation

Transport and utilities

  • Highways and road transport (H)
  • Transport (other) (T)
  • Utilities (U)

Industry and commerce

  • Industry (I)
  • Offices (J)
  • Retailing (K)
  • Storage and warehousing (S)


  • Community buildings (C)


  • Leisure and recreational (L)Buildings


  • Vacant land previously (V) Developed
  • Derelict land (Z)

Minerals and landfill

  • Minerals (M)
  • Landfill waste disposal (Y)


  • Defence (D)

Non-previously developed land Group Category (codes)


  • Agricultural land (A)
  • Agricultural buildings (B)


  • Forestry and woodland (F)

Open land and water

  • Rough grassland and (G) bracken
  • Natural and semi-natural (N) land
  • Water (W)

Outdoor recreation

  • Outdoor recreation (O)


  • Urban land not previously (X) developed

Previously Developed Land


(a) Residential (R)

Houses, flats, sheltered accommodation where residences have separate front entrances and adjoining garages, gardens, estate roads and pathways.

(b) Institutional and Communal Accommodation (Q) Buildings that provide communal accommodation including residential institutions that are not classified as Community Buildings (C) or Leisure and Recreational Buildings (L). Included are hotels, hostels, old people's homes, children's homes, monasteries and convents, etc.

Transport and Utilities

(a) Highways and Road Transport (H) Roads as through routes, including distributor roads in housing estates, bus stations and public car parks. (Note - Roads in housing or industrial estates that are primarily a means of access to properties are classified as Residential (R) or Industry (I) as appropriate. Car parks not open to the public are classified with the buildings or activities they serve).

(b) Transport (other) (T)

Non-highway transport routes and places, e.g. railways, airports and dockland, including all installations within the perimeter of the establishment, e.g. warehouses, dry docks, wharves, internal roads etc. (Note - Canals and rivers are classified as Water (W). Warehousing and industrial sites built on former dockland are classified as Storage and Warehousing (S) or Industry (I) as appropriate).

(c) Utilities (U)

Facilities for post and telecommunications, the production and distribution of gas and electricity, the treatment and disposal of sewage, and cemeteries and crematoria. It includes power stations, water works, gas works, refuse disposal places (except those in Landfill Waste Disposal (Y)), TV masts and electricity sub-stations etc.

Industry and Commerce

(a) Industry (I) Works, refineries, shipbuilding yards, mills and other industrial sites. (Note - Where these are part of a public utility, e.g. gas works or water works, they are classified as Utilities (U)).

(b) Offices (J)

Local and central government offices, banks, building societies and other offices etc.

(c) Retailing (K)

Shops, garages, public houses, restaurants, post offices etc. (d) Storage and Warehousing (S) Depots, scrap and timber yards, warehousing etc.

Community Services

(a) Community Buildings (C)

Health, educational, community and religious buildings and police stations, prisons, fire stations, etc.

(b) Leisure and Recreational Buildings (L) Buildings associated with leisure and recreation such as museums, cinemas, theatres, bowling alleys, sports halls, holiday camps, amusement arcades, etc and buildings associated with outdoor recreation.

Vacant Land

(a) Vacant Land previously developed (V)

Land that was previously developed and is now vacant which could be developed without further demolition or treatment. For example, cleared sites with no fixed structures or building foundations. Includes cleared sites used as temporary car parks or playgrounds, provided no work has been done to facilitate their temporary use and there are no permanent fixtures or structures.

(b) Derelict Land (Z)

Land previously developed but currently unused which requires some demolition work or other treatment before it could be developed. For example, a derelict site that needs to be cleared, leveled or have foundations removed.

Minerals and Landfill

(a) Minerals (M)

Areas of surface mineral working including spoil tips together with all buildings and installations for surface and underground mineral workings.

(b) Landfill Waste Disposal (Y)

Rubbish tips and former mineral workings which are used for land being reclaimed by the tipping of domestic and industrial waste and land being reclaimed by infill. (Note - Waste transfer stations, incinerators and household waste sites where these are used purely for transit or processing are classified as Utilities (U)).


(a) Defence (D)

Defence establishment land, barracks, buildings, airfields and firing ranges which are shown as such on the OS map. (Note - Married quarters are classified as Residential (R)).

Non-previously developed land


(a) Agricultural Land (A)

Areas of crops, grassland, hop fields and fruit bushes etc, corresponding to "white" areas without symbol or annotations on the OS map. Orchards and nurseries shown by annotations on the OS map.

(b) Agricultural Buildings (B)

Buildings and hard surface areas and farm roads found on farm holdings. (Note - farmhouses are classified as Residential (R) and farm shops are classified as Retailing (K)).

Forestry, Open Land and Water

(a) Forestry/Woodland (F)

Areas marked with woodland annotations on the OS map including woodland on farm holdings and woodland used for recreation.

(b) Rough Grassland and Bracken (G)

Areas of rough grassland and bracken shown by annotation or symbol on the OS map and areas of scrub, with no other woodland classification, occurring outside areas of forestry and woodland. This category includes such land used for recreation.

(c) Natural and Semi-natural Land (N)

Land which is not being cultivated or grazed and which has never been used for development, including scree, cliff, dunes, marsh and beach and land reclaimed from the sea or estuaries which has not yet been grazed or developed. This category includes such land used for recreation.

(d) Water (W)

Water features including lakes, canals, reservoirs etc whether man made or occurring naturally and including those used for recreation. (Note - Water filled gravel pits where extraction is still taking place are included in Minerals (M)).

Outdoor Recreation

(a) Outdoor Recreation (O)

Outdoor recreation areas such as playing fields and sports grounds, including those in schools and industrial sites, football pitches, golf courses, country parks and allotment gardens. (Note - Buildings, such as stables, clubhouses and pavilions, associated with Outdoor Recreation are classified as Leisure and Recreational Buildings (L). If an area is designated as a nature reserve, the land use grouping is unaffected - any changes within these areas are classified in the normal way).

Vacant Land

(a) Urban Land not previously developed (X)

Land in built-up areas which has not been developed previously and which is not currently used for agriculture which is shown on the OS map as a 'white' area without annotation. (Note - If it was not in a built-up area (or if it was being used for agriculture), such land would be classified as Agricultural Land (A)).

Green Belts and Flood Risk Boundaries

Designated Green Belts

Green Belts are designated areas of land that aim to restrict urban sprawl of built-up areas and to preserve the character of historic towns. They have been an essential part of planning policy for some 5 decades, helping to ensure that development occurs in locations allocated in development plans.

Green Belts in England covered around 1.67 million hectares, or 13 per cent, of the country in 2003. Prior to this, the latest available boundaries were for 1997. It is the intention that Green Belt areas will be updated annually in the future.

Green Belt land is a mix of previously developed and non-previously developed land. It can cover small villages comprising a mixture of residential, retail, industrial and recreational land, as well as fields and forests. In this context, it may be helpful to make a distinction between land use and designation. Land use describes the main activity taking place on an area of land, for example residential or agriculture, whereas the land designation describes an area of land (with perhaps many land uses) with a special characteristic such as National Parks, Urban Areas, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Green Belt.

Although there is a presumption that inappropriate development in Green Belts is prohibited, some development does occur.

Flood Risk Boundaries

The flood risk analysis is based on a data set of digitised boundaries provided annually by the Environment Agency. They do not take into account any flood defences. They reflect the river and coastal floodplains and provide indicative flood risk areas. The river floodplains are the areas known to face at least a one in one hundred chance of flooding each year and the coastal floodplains are the areas known to face at least a one in two hundred chance of flooding. Indicative Flood Risk areas cover about 12 per cent of the total area of England.

Table 2: Total Land Area of Government Office Regions and Counties

Government Office Region (thousands hectares)

East Midlands 1,563

  • Derbyshire 263
  • Leicestershire 255
  • Lincolnshire 592
  • Northamptonshire 237
  • Nottinghamshire 216

East of England 1,912

  • Bedfordshire 124
  • Cambridgeshire 340
  • Essex 367
  • Hertfordshire 164
  • Norfolk 537
  • Suffolk 380
  • London 158
  • Greater London 158

North East 859

  • Cleveland (former county of) 60
  • Durham 243
  • Northumberland 503
  • Tyne and Wear 54

North West 1,417

  • Cheshire 233
  • Cumbria 682
  • Greater Manchester 129
  • Lancashire 307
  • Merseyside 66

South East 1,910

  • Berkshire (former county of) 127
  • Buckinghamshire 187
  • East Sussex 180
  • Hampshire 378
  • Isle Of Wight 38
  • Kent 373
  • Oxfordshire 261
  • Surrey 167
  • West Sussex 199

South West 2,381

  • Avon (former county of) 133
  • Cornwall 354
  • Devon 670
  • Dorset 265
  • Gloucestershire 265
  • Somerset 345
  • Wiltshire 348

West Midlands 1,300

  • Hereford & Worcester (former county of) 392
  • Shropshire 349
  • Staffordshire 272
  • Warwickshire 198
  • West Midlands 90

Yorkshire and the Humber 1,541

  • Humberside (former county of) 351
  • North Yorkshire 831
  • South Yorkshire 156
  • West Yorkshire 203

England 13,041

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Web site: www.odpm.gov.uk

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