Friday, 8 March 2019

The NPPF is off the SEA hook

Interesting to read the judgment of Mr Justice Dove on Friends of the Earth Limited vs SoS for Housing, Communities and Local Government that was released this week - [2019] EWHC 518 (Admin)

The upshot is that the Government have been let off the legal hook for any need to undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for its national planning policy framework (NPPF) – and I can hear the collective sigh of relief from Whitehall. 
The judge recognises that there is a clear case to be made that the NPPF sets "the Framework for future development consent of projects" and could clearly “have significant effects on the environment”.  However he also concluded that it did not fall within the accepted definition of a plan or programme given that its existence or preparation was not mandatory or regulated in any way.  So on this ‘technicality’ an SEA is not required. 

That doesn’t mean to say it wouldn’t have been a good idea… though a wry smile did cross my face when I read that the Government had argued that nothing worthwhile would come out of any examination of its effects.  Tell that to all the Neighbourhood Plan Groups that have to go through the SEA hoops just for allocating a few small sites for new homes!
Having said all that, I wasn't looking forward to a scenario where the NPPF was quashed - though that would have certainly provided a lot more to post about!

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