For those interested in planning, two interesting case studies have just popped up:
1) A Devon council tried to refuse outline planning permission to a developer for 122 houses but the developer took it to appeal and the council lost because they hadn’t met their housing-land supply. As we know, developers can basically build where they like – permission is just a pretend formality – as is the Local Plan and the Neighbourhood Plan.
But Sevenoaks Council is trying to make a stand, they have failed to meet their supply because they refuse to build on greenbelt land but their LP has been rejected by the inspector:
As much as I really respect Sevenoaks Council for doing this and wish other council’s would do so too, I think statements like this:
‘We believe, whilst this is not the reason the inspector has given, failing to meet the government’s housing figure would potentially impact on subsequent Local Plans across the country.’
Are somewhat naïve as this has been going on for years under the last and present iterations of the NPPF. They will undoubtedly be brushed off by the Secretary of State, as were ADVEARSE before our JR. They may win any subsequent JR on the technicality that the inspector has rejected the plan because ‘it was not legally compliant in respect of the council’s duty to cooperate’, her main concerns being ‘the lack of constructive engagement with neighbouring authorities to resolve the issue of unmet housing need and the absence of strategic cross-boundary planning to examine how the identified needs could be accommodated’, whereas the council says its ‘Plan submission included more than 800 pages of evidence detailing how it had worked with neighbouring authorities during its production of the Plan’ and ‘that those councils and other organisations involved in its development supported the council’s evidence and approach.’ If the inspector had explicitly rejected the plan on the grounds of it failing to meet housing-land supply – the real reason for the rejection – then the judge would undoubtedly be able to uphold the decision. However, if they win on a technicality, the inspector has only to reject it again citing the real reasons.
The real situation is what the council suggests: ‘If we are not to follow the evidence to make our Plan then the government may just as well dictate how many homes an area should have and then pick sites, we need to put an end to the thinly veiled charade that Local Plans are in any way locally led.’ If I were the leader of the council and the plan still gets rejected further down the line, I would be inclined to publicly rip it up and say, what’s the point, clearly developers can build where they like so we might as well leave it all to the free market and bin the pretence.
Sarah Carney, ADVEARSE