Friday, 22 March 2019

No resting on laurels

Couple of news items of interest in the planning journals this week...

It would seem that Friends of the Earth, who challenged the sustainability credentials of the NPPF in the High Court and failed (see my earlier blogs) are not going to lay down without a fight.  According to their Barrister, Nina Pindham, they have applied to leapfrog the appeal system to take their case straight to the Supreme Court.

Also a timely reminder for Neighbourhood Plan Groups, with Middlewich having the dubious honour of being the third plan to fail at referendum.   A modest turnout (just under 20%) and a very narrow margin. 
Reading between the lines, the main angst seems to have been about the level of development proposed in the adopted Local Plan and that the Neighbourhood Plan did not argue against it (not that they could), together with the lack of a bypass to cater with the proposed growth, which although mooted has no funding.  There were also political divisions over the plan, with one party campaigning against it.  Will the town have an appetite to have a second go?

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Sweet sixteen (and counting)

With Hazelbury Bryan and Sturminster Newton Neighbourhood Plans being made this week, I make that 16 plans in place across Dorset (including Poole and Bournemouth) - plenty more at Examination to add to this list later in the year.  Looking at the map there is an obvious lack of plans in East Dorset, perhaps this will change following the new Dorset Council and increased awareness of those local Members.

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!

Friday, 1 March 2019

Shout out today for two Neighbourhood Plans:

Sturminster Newton, where the Neighbourhood Plan referendum showed clear support for the plan (89% in favour) despite changes made by the Examiner to remove the 'reserve' status of two sites to allow them to come forward sooner - countering the point made by some developers that Neighbourhood Plans are a NIMBY's charter.  Interestingly the Examiner had deleted the Bull Tavern site (as the Local Planning Authority had objected to it on heritage grounds) but the Committee overturned the officer's recommendation to refuse permission, on the basis that the community benefits outweighed the heritage concerns.  It rather begs the question whether the Committee should have be more involved in responding to the Neighbourhood Plan consultations!

Holwell, whose plan was officially 'made' at Full Council this week.  But I am sure the volunteers will not rest for long - there is a certain Village Hall project that no doubt will take up the slack!