#NPPF Formal Consultation Response Part 3 – Development Management

3a    Decision taking

In the policies on development management, the level of detail is appropriate.

 

Do you: Strongly Agree/Agree/Neither Agree or Disagree/Disagree/Strongly Disagree

 

The NPPF is not self contained on this matter. Decisions makers will still need to keep ‘The Planning System General Principles‘ to hand for its advice on issues such as the materiality of private interests, and the materiality of public consultation responses, but large parts of that would be rendered out of date. This would be most confusing. Rather the key legal and operational principles from this document should be included. Decision makers referring to the NPPF would not know for example how to weigh the presumption in favour of the development plan against other material consideration and how this could be squared with the presumption in favour of sustainable development. This need add no more than two pages to the NPPF, and Planning Policy Wales is a good model.

Without a coherent statement even the very first decision under the NPPF could be legally challengeable if the decision maker was found to be confused, as everyone is, on how to apply them together. Paras 62 and 63 are of little use in this regard pulling in opposite directions. Consideration should be given to a single combined section – together with paras 13.-17. (as rewritten) on planning decision making.

The sections on pre-application engagement and front loading are welcome and reflect current best practice.

In terms of the onus of proof there is some confusion on how this will work. Previously there was the onus of proof was on those that wished to argue against a development plan, to show how ‘material considerations indicate otherwise’. In cases where a plan was indeterminate there was no burden on either side, each came to the table equally. In some cases the burden of proof was always in the developer – such as proposing an inappropriate development in the Green Belt.

Now the situation is unclear. The text on burden of proof on Green Belts has been removed. Because of the way paras. 62 and 63 are written it could be read that the onus is on the decision maker to prove in all cases that why a scheme should be refused, even if a proposal is contrary to the development plan. This creates several problems. Firstly it has created the impression amongst the objecting public that the system has become tilted against them. Secondly this is already causing disillusioned groups from engaging in the neighbourhood agenda. Thirdly it causing local authorities to consider that they might need expensive reports to back up refusals rather than relying on professional judgement. Fourthly the risk of costs is leading local authorities to begin approving even poor schemes, and finally local groups feel they need to fill the gap being left by financially streached local authorities on appeals and fund reports themselves. All of this further adding to the cost and adversarial nature of the system.

In a world where all plans are kept up to date and meet objective needs in a flexible and realistic way the ‘presumption’ is unnecessary. If it is to remain for other cases then the suggested single planning, access & design and statement should set out why the presumption in favour should apply, why it meets all other presumptions in favour (as suggested such as on design), and why any presumptions against should not apply. All other parties presenting evidence on an application would do the same.

The NPPF should set out that each application (other than minor exempt schemes) should be accompanied by a single planning, access & design and statement (SPADS). This would incorporate the following into a single document with a single simple narrative thread:

  1. Design and Access Statement (statutory)
  2. Non technical summary in EIA cases
  3. Planning and Heritage Statements – including assessment against development plan and NPPF
  4. Summary of other technical reports
  5. Overall conclusion

This is designed to avoid the planning by skip load culture of planning applications we have developed, and to make planning more accessible

In this suggested approach there would be no burden of proof on any party, rather the decision maker would weigh the evidence for and against and come to their decision.

 

3b    Do you have comments? (Please begin with relevant paragraph number)

 

Yes see attached table for para. by para.comments.

 

4a     Any guidance needed to support the new Framework should be light-touch and could be provided by organisations outside Government.

 

Do you: Strongly Agree/Agree/Neither Agree or Disagree/Disagree/Strongly Disagree

 

 

4b     What should any separate guidance cover and who is best placed to provide it?

 

There will be a need for technical guidance and good practice guidance. Some of this can and must be provided by government agencies such as the Environment Agency and English Heritage.

However there will always be circumstances where the SoS will need to hold the ring and endorse guidance that may frequently be used on appeal, as well as ensuring that the guidance is available freely.

A perfect example of this Manual for Streets, designed to resolve disputes on acceptable road standards and highly successful in doing so. However Manual for Streets 2 was privately (by CIHT) produced and is very expensive, £150, making it expensive for neighbourhood groups to use for example in setting out design standards for new housing in neighbourhood plans. Design Guidance is so contentious that although they might be drafted by third parties ministerial ring holding and endorsement will be necessary for them to have weight on appeal.

Some guidance, for example of constructing housing trajectories, would have to be written by government as they are central to issues on appeal.

Necessary technical guidance will vary over time, but could important guidance that the government, or one of its agencies, should ensure are in place would include:

  • Assessing Housing Supply and Housing Trajectories
  • Assessing Employment Land Requirements
  • Planning for Affordable Housing
  • Planning for Town Centres First
  • Enforcement of Planning Control
  • Noise
  • Water Environment (including Flooding)
  • Delivering Biodiversity in Planning
  • English Design Guide (incorporating Urban Design Compendium, Manual for Streets, Accessible Design, Design Against Crime and Sustainable Design)

Transport Assessment and Travel Plans

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About andrew lainton

International Urban Planner

Posted on August 31, 2011, in National Planning Policy Framework, urban planning. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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