Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Is the Secretary of State up to the job?

I think that everybody involved in the British planning system should be made aware of a recent kicking that the office of the Secretary of State received in the High Court in respect a 'written ministerial statement' that was found to be incompatible with the statutory planning scheme.  This statement was an attempt by Mr Pickles to inflict further damage on the process of providing affordable housing (it required LPAs not to impose any affordable housing quotas or contributions to social infrastructure on sites of ten houses or less).  Although an officer from DCLG has already threatened an appeal against the judgement (the case makes embarrassing reading for all those who backed the statement and thought that it was lawful) this is an ideal opportunity for Greg Clark to concede the case as a demonstration that he has a proper understanding of the way in which the planning and housing system works, as was so clearly enunciated by both the judge and both claimants (West Berks and Reading Councils with honorable mention going to Cornwall who had made similar claims).

Mr Clark should also be wondering if not hoping that the removal of both the Code for Sustainable Homes by his predecessor, and the  Zero Carbon Homes target by the Chancellor and Business Secretary could also be considered to be unlawful, on grounds of being 'incompatible with the statutory scheme' comprising the 2008 Climate Change Act and the duty to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development under s39(2) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchse Act 2004, not to mention the presumption in favour of sustainable development in the 2012 NPPF to which he provided the Foreword.  There is also a letter from Mr Pickles written on 25 March 2015, just before his demise, telling LPAs that parking provision should not be controlled on new residential schemes.  This is in conflict with the need to reduce car dependency under the Climate Change Act.

It is becoming increasingly urgent that Mr Clark issues a written statement that represents a 'reset' on the application of the principles which relate to sustainable development that have been so discredited over the last 5 years.  The High Court has given him such an opportunity by accepting the error in his predecessor's statement, and then moving on to reverse some of the very damaging interpretations of policy (ie NPPF) reflected in appeal decisions over recent years.

1 comment: