Sunday, July 3, 2016

Article 50 and material considerations

A couple of things have emerged from the Brexit debate of interest to planners - apart from the possible brake on house sales and construction.

It is extraordinary that those urging citizens to vote for a substantial change to the circumstances affecting both them and their country could do so with si little by way of a 'plan'.  Accepting that preparing a plan would not have been easy given the uncertainties in what the EU might offer as a leaving present, this would suggest that a two stage vote should have been proposed.

The second curiosity is the apparent lack of understanding of the role of Parliament as the ultimate decision -taker.  Every planner knows that decisions are only lawful if based on all material considerations (starting with any up to date plan) without any false or misleading information into account.  Yet we have a string of MPs (reflected by the media) claiming that the result of the Referendum should be paramount if not actually binding. The 2014 Referendum Act made the Referendum result advisory, and this must now be put into the balance with any obvious falsehoods (for which the blame must be placed on those responsible) and even the circumstances which seem to have changed as a result of the possible Brexit.

Perhaps most important for e Member of Parliament would be to continue to represent all their constituents and the interests of the country as a whole (I wonder whether this is in their oath?).  This must include the over 10 million people choosing not to vote in a one off referendum (placing their trust in better informed elected representatives) as well as the over 10 million too young to vote.  Their interests should not be overridden by the narrow majority of those choosing to vote.

A planning decision based solely on what a parish council might say without taking into account representations from other interested parties and also the professional judgement of experts would be open to legal challenge.  The Article 50 debate (hopefully not a trigger pulled by the Prime Minister) should show how all and only material considerations are taken int account.

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