Net Gainers and Net Losers – Balance, Sustainability and the #NPPF

Just a short note on to what extent you can trade off social, environmental and economic in the NPPF.

Para. 152 of the NPPF

Local planning authorities should seek opportunities to achieve each of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, and net gains across all three. Significant adverse impacts on any of these dimensions should be avoided and, wherever possible, alternative options which reduce or eliminate such impacts should be pursued.

But this only applies to plan making not decision taking.  However para.8 says

to achieve sustainable development, economic, social and environmental gains should be sought jointly and simultaneously through the planning system.

But what if a scheme seeks net gain across all three areas in a decision taking case and is not achieved.  The wording is ‘sought’ and not ‘required’.

Para.  9 and para. 109 of the NPPF say we should be moving from net losses to biodiversity to net gains, 109 adding the rider ‘net losses’.  As Simon Marsh of the RSPB points out this is new compared to previous pre NPPF policy and is highly welcome.

Whilst at numerous times in the NPPF it talks of the need to net gains for the economy – growth.  Such as in the core principles where ‘every effort’ should be applied to acheive it.

What about the social side of sustainable development then.  It is not until section 8 that social issues are considered again outside the introduction.  Providing a scheme doesn’t harm the social facilities needed and provides new ones needed – e.g. schools, open space etc.  There is no equivalent of the other two arms of  sustainable development that there has to be a net gain in decision taking matters when not required by a plan.  So we are still back in the old fashioned world of trade off where economic aspects are given greater priority these social aspects.  Biodiversity gains but society may lose.

This is perhaps nowhere clearer in the NPPF than on the issue of affordable housing and the trade off with viability.

The implication being that if local communities wish to avoid this economy -  society trade off they should find a way in their local plans to do so – providing they can supass the viability testing of course.

A thought but there is a quite straightforward way under the 1990 that LPAs can do that.  If a housebuilder with an option on land claims that affordable housing at say 35% would be unviable in a development plan then put a clause in the local plan that it will be acquired under section 226 of the act (note section 10 of the New Towns Act 1981 still on the Statute book also allows CPO. other development corporations under other acts also have CPO powers).  Section 226 says:

(1) A local authority to whom this section applies shall, on being authorised to do so by the Secretary of State, have power to acquire compulsorily any land in their area if the authority think that the acquisition will facilitate the carrying out of development, re-development or improvement on or in relation to the land, which] is required for a purpose which it is necessary to achieve in the interests of the proper planning of an area in which the land is situated.

(1A)But a local authority must not exercise the power under paragraph (a) of subsection (1) unless they think that the development, re-development or improvement is likely to contribute to the achievement of any one or more of the following objects

(a) the promotion or improvement of the economic well-being of their area;

(b) the promotion or improvement of the social well-being of their area;

(c) the promotion or improvement of the environmental well-being of their area.

Subject to the CPO being ‘back to backed’ by a development partner so there is no cost to the LPA.  Such CPOs of course are at existing land use value and the CPO inquiry can be concurrent with the EIP and by the same inspector. (see circular 06/2004).  Under the 1981 Aquisition of Land Act the ‘relevent date’ for CPO valuation is the date of the lands tribunal decision of the date value are agreed, or the date vested if that procedure is used.  (see para 23 of DCLG 2010 guidance).  So all a local plan need do is state in a phasing policy that the allocation of the land shall not take place until after the land has been acquired by the LPA.   This is pretty much the process used by former New Town Development Corporations to avoid penal compensation under the 1961 Land Compensation Act.  Acquire land for some future use and then once acquired modify the master-plan to allocate it for some specific date.

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About andrew lainton

International Urban Planner

Posted on April 29, 2012, in National Planning Policy Framework, urban planning. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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