As if the shift wasn’t already obvious enough with recent recovered appeals – Lewis underlines it. Effectively their is no longer a default of yes when landscape harm is involved. Indeed the letter doesn’t even mention ‘valued landscapes’ stressing the importance Lewis gives to areas ‘outside designated areas’ and ‘landscape character’ more widely. It leaves a huge gulf though between the lanugae and tone of the NPPF – the presumption in favour – and the way ministers now preelection wish to apply it – pretty much identical to the old PPS3 and PPS4. It now implies that the key test in no longer para.14 but para 17. which is being applied as if it were a test. The early NPPF caselaw and appeals were contradictory until the SOS backed an inspector who rejected the ‘William Davis Ltd.’ principle – that the presumption only applies to development which is sustainable implying a double test. Pickles on several occasion backed inspectors who said this was contrary to the NPPF most notably in in conjoined appeals at Droitwich Spa
The Secretary of State also notes the recent decision in Dartford Borough Council v. Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Landhold Capital Limited where Mrs Justice Patterson rejected elevating William Davis into a formulaic sequential approach to paragraph 14 of the Framework. Like the Inspector, the Secretary of State finds the relevant policies for the supply of housing are out of date… and therefore the presumption applies, and that the evidence…demonstrates that the Appeal A scheme is sustainable in terms of economic, environmental and social benefits.’ -
Now he appears to have changed his mind and we are back to a ‘double hurdle test’. It is difficult to see how Brnadon Lewis is not appliying a’formulaic sequential approach to paragraph 14 of the Framework’ if he is applying para.17 first to test whether there is harm to landscape character and ‘taking full account of the environmental as well as the economic and social dimensions of development proposals. ‘ first to state that development is not sustinable.
This is a fundamental shift by a government that does not want to admit it got it wrong and bottled it. Let Brandon Lewis open a home for three legged donkeys.
Dear Simon, Landscape character and prematurity in planning decisions
I have become aware of several recent appeal cases in which harm to landscape character has been an important consideration in the appeal being dismissed. These cases are a reminder of one of the twelve core principles at paragraph 17 of the National Planning Policy Framework – that plans and decisions should take into account the different roles and character of different areas, and recognise the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside – to ensure that development is suitable for the local context. While National Parks, the Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Heritage Coasts quite rightly enjoy the highest degree of protection, outside of these designated areas the impact of development on the landscape can be an important material consideration. We are publicising some of these appeal cases more widely, with the help of the Planning Advisory Service, to promote greater understanding of how landscape character can be taken into account by local planning authorities in their decisions. These cases also reflect the wider emphasis on delivering sustainable outcomes at the heart of the Framework, which means taking full account of the environmental as well as the economic and social dimensions of development proposals. And, of course, these roles should not be undertaken in isolation – the economic factors can secure higher social and environmental standards. I would also like to take this opportunity to restate our position on prematurity, which I know is also an issue that causes debate in some cases. Paragraph 216 of the National Planning Policy Framework makes clear that weight can be given to relevant policies in emerging Local and neighbourhood plans, and the particular factors that need to be considered when doing so. When arguments relating to the prematurity of development are advanced, our planning guidance sets out the tests to be applied. The weight that can be attached to an emerging plan will need to be considered carefully when assessing whether a prematurity argument is justified. We will continue to consider whether this careful balance is best serving local communities.