There are several planning related issues in the Autumn Statement, and I will comment on them over the next few days. I want to start with the powerful presumption in favour of sustainable development, announced in the Budget on 23rd March. The Chancellor said:
“Yes, local communities should have a greater say in planning, but from today:…We will introduce a new presumption in favour of sustainable development, so that the default answer to development is ‘yes’;”
As I have been saying for some time, that sounds to me as thought the policy took immediate effect, and in the plan for growth it is described as a “powerful presumption”. But we don’t hear so much about the powerful part nowadays and in the final commons debate on the Localism Bill Greg Clark undertook that there would be “transitional provisions” for the National Planning Policy Framework, in which the presumption is restated/expanded, to enable local authorities to bring their plans up to date.
So what does George Osborne say in the Autumn Statement?
“The Government has already made substantial progress [with planning reforms] through the Localism Act 2011 and the publication of the draft National Planning Policy Framework, which sets out a presumption in favour of sustainable development.”
That sounds as though we are back with the presumption already in operation, in which case it applies to current decisions. So why has the Secretary of State for the Environment recently rejected three planning appeals on the ground that the local planning authority should be allowed time to revise its local plan – effectively the decision on location and quantity is for them? In short, how will the presumption be enforced?