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.

National Trust issues its 10 point wish list

I offer the following comments (in italic) on the list issued today.

The National Trust’s ten asks of the NPPF are:

1. Confirmation that the planning system should not be used as a blunt tool to ‘proactively drive development’.

Planning is a sophisticated tool, and it is able to drive economic development proactively. That was behind the 1947 Act as can be seen from the Uthwatt Report. At a time of global economic crisis, it is a lever available to Government.

2. Clarification of how planning should promote genuinely, robustly defined, sustainable development.

The system is pretty clear. The Act requires all material considerations to be taken into account. The weight to be given to each is for the decision maker. Sustainable development is a phrase coined by the UN’s Brundtland report and was translated into UK Government policy several years ago. It is worth reading.

3. Clause 130 of the Localism Bill, (Applications for planning permission: local finance considerations) should be removed. Financial payments should not be a material consideration in planning decisions.

Clause 130 only allows them to be taken into account so far as material, and policy on the New Homes Bonus says it can only be taken into account where the infrastructure it funds has a direct connection to the development. But economics have always played a legitimate part in planning, as Sovmots v. Secretary of State, and other cases, have confirmed. The Trust’s approach would rule out payments for infrastructure contributions.

4. The NPPF should see no diminution of protection for designated countryside and heritage; and planning should continue to protect the wider countryside ‘for its own sake’.

The countryside is still a material consideration. As is the value of “best and most versatile agricultural land”.

5. The NPPF should adopt an explicit ‘brownfield first’ approach.

Presumably the Trust would accept the need for particular circumstances to be taken into account.

6. The NPPF should provide a five year supply of land for housing, but the requirement to identify an additional 20 per cent of land should be dropped.

What is the problem with identifying where housing will go? We need more housing. If we don’t permit it, the price of housing will rise as the laws of supply and demand apply.

7. The default ‘YES’, and requirement to grant permission where a local plan is out-of-date, indeterminate or silent, is irresponsible and must be removed.

This exaggerates what the NPPF says. But even if it didn’t, this should put some urgency into getting 100% plan coverage. The plan has been central to planning since 1947. Planning authorities have had over 60 years to do this, and constant exhortation.

8. Localism should be real: communities should be given genuine power to shape their area for the better.

Communities have considerable power already as planning decisions are taken in accordance with their plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise, and the plan making process includes serious public participation. Neighbourhood development plans and orders are coming.

9. It is fundamentally wrong that neighbourhood plans should be led and funded by business. It should be a core principle of the reforms that any plans, whether at neighbourhood or local authority level, should be genuinely community led.

If business does not fund them, the burden will fall on communities – that is, the taxpayer. Why should business not be allowed to take the initiative? Communities are not thereby prevented from leading.
10. There should be a limited third party right of appeal, in circumstances where consent is granted for development that is inconsistent with the local plan. This should be guaranteed by the Localism Bill.

That would enable an appeal to be made every time the plan is not followed because “material considerations indicate otherwise”. It also gives a powerful incentive to the applicant to appeal as soon as s/he can, as the decision will be taken on appeal either way, thus depriving the local planning authority of its decision making power.

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