A blog about planning, planning law and planning policy


The information on this blog is not intended to be advice, legal or otherwise. You should not rely on it and I do not accept liability in connection with it. If you do have a planning law question on which you would like advice, seek legal advice from a suitably qualified solicitor. Specific advice should be sought for specific problems.

George Dobry puts the record straight on the presumption

At last.  It takes The Times to publish a letter putting the record straight on the presumption.  It is not from me – The Telegraph has failed so far to publish any of the half-dozen or so letters I have written to it – but from George Dobry QC, the very distinguished planning barrister, and later judge.  He was the author of the Dobry Report in the 1970s from which he liberally quotes in the letter I set out below.

“Sir, Duncan Bannatyne and other distinguished industrialists in their letter (Sept 19) say, “We have all seen worthwhile job-creating projects killed off by a system where the presumption is ‘no’.”

But English planning law has always been, from 1946 onwards, based on the principle that “planning permission should be granted unless there is a sound and clear cut planning reason for refusal”. The presumption is “yes”.

The government of the day confirmed this 40 years ago in Circular 9/76 entitled “The Dobry Report: action by Local Authorities” and added, “The onus … lies on the authority to show that proposed development is not acceptable, rather than on the applicant to show that it is”. The Review of Development Control actually stated (in paragraph 1.32) that, “Positive planning means not only preservation of the countryside and in towns, but also positive encouragement, and help for, development. This cliché may seem hardly worth repeating, yet there are still too many who continue to ignore it, causing serious harm to the economy and to planning.”

I also said (in paragraph 1.33), “Finally, it is not so much the system which is wrong, but the way in which it is used. The successful implementation of the proposed measures depends on a change of attitude towards a more positive and constructive approach on all sides.”

The recent furore about changing the planning system is mistaken, I could actually say fundamentally misconceived: the system is not wrong but, as I have said in my Interim Report, is “the best in the world”. It was then and it is now.

His Honour George Dobry, QC
London EC4″

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