Coventry Disputes ‘Duty to Cooperate’ Failure – Was the Inspector Correct?
Interesting Quotes from BBC West Mids
…it’s “a mess”.
[Coventry] blames the Planning Inspectorate which turned down the city’s proposed plan on the grounds that it had not secured adequate agreements from neighbouring local authorities, an interpretation which Mr Mutton hotly disputes.
“The government introduced the Localism Bill which is supposed to be about local councils making decisions based on local knowledge and then we have a planning inspector who not only ignores our local knowledge but also interprets the legislation in a way no one expected.
“The ‘duty to cooperate’ suddenly becomes the ‘duty to agree’. Well that may never happen between authorities.”
You bet. The penultimate sentence is adapted from me. Well of course quite a few people did predict it. We did on this blog and of course Birmingham and Nuneaton & Bedworth did to and the inspector upheld that view.
The reference seems to be to the one line of the finding.
The evidence does not show that cooperation between Coventry and its neighbouring councils has been constructive, as required by the 2004 Act, or effective as is expected by paragraph 181 of the Framework.
The inspector did not need to add the text in bold it confuses the legal and soundness issues however reading the decision as a whole it is clear that it is made solely on legal grounds with relation to engaging constructively and effectively – the section 33A requirement as added after RTPI lobbying. This does not mean you have to agree on housing distribution ( a soundness issue), but you do have to engage constructively on determining what the objective level of need is, which Coventry deliberately declined to do, like North Somerset of course, and look where that led.
It is difficult then to see any successful outcome if Coventry do JR as the additional text added to section 33A was added expressly to deal with recalcitrant cases such as this.
And on locals making local decision we have had the recent Tewksbury case confirming the legal view that planning is just as centrally driven as it ever was, when you don’t have an up to date plan.
Perhaps the big issue and greatest conundrum is what is the political ‘out’ for councils that hit this wall. This has no easy answer, some authorities have bravely got their heads down, some hold out, others are petrified it will happen to them soon, what a mess yes.