Saturday, August 2, 2014

Precise policies or warm words?

Some preliminary points before the main course. DanthePlan’s Blog attempts to refer to recent events or consultations but many of the earlier Blogs remain relevant and possibly more interesting that the most recent.  For example, I would not like to think that the issue of ‘local food’ is lost in the fog created by more recent changes to measures of energy efficiency.  Nor that the intergenerational justice Blog gets buried beneath how to deal with the lack of a five year housing supply. 

But, that reminds me to repeat that ‘unsustainabilty’ should be raised as an ‘adverse impact’ when deciding an application under NPPF para 14, and an absence of a five year land supply.  Of course it is not the breach of any policy than counts but the harm that would cause, so it is not the absence of the required housing land supply that should be given weight by the decision-maker but the harm arising from the shortfall.  This requires an analysis of the existing permissions and allocations and the rate of building in the area, as well as the number of properties for sale (eg see Rightmove).  It would be helpful to unearth the origins of the ‘5 year land supply’ mantra to see which of the original criteria apply in any current case.  Alternatively the decision-maker could seek evidence on the obvious points – who would be prejudiced or harmed by a refusal of permission in terms of the need for housing or the needs of the building industry? The same should apply to cases where there is 5 year land supply – permission being granted because no demonstrable harm would arise. I would submit that reasoning along these lines, relating to the real world, would be more transparent and acceptable to all users of the planning system except perhaps those currently benefiting from ‘lack of five year land supply’ bandwagon.

Arising from a look through a number of neighbourhood development plans that have been supervised by planners or been through inspection  by planners, there seems to be an acceptance that development plan policies can ‘encourage’ or ‘support’ without framing this in a way that specifies what the plan does not support.  Inspector Graham Self managed to approve the Lyn NDP only after re-writing policies so that it was clear what they both prescribed and proscribed.  Permissive policies (supporting and encouraging) are less helpful as they do not say what should not be approved  (without overriding material considerations).

A proposal for 5 large dwellings could not be refused as not being in accordance with a policy that supports co-housing, self-building or smaller dwellings. To achieve these important forms of housing the policy should say that no housing will be permitted that does not include ...

Policies can be prescriptive (what must be done),  proscriptive (what must not be done) or permissive (what can be done) all of which put the users of the plan; LPA, developers/applicants, public and NGOs/interest groups in a position where they know what the decision should be based on s38(6). ’…in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise.’   

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