Sandbach Prematurity Case to be redetermined – but pyrrhic victory for developer #NPPF

Planning reports on the determination of the high court case regarding a recovered Sandbach appeal that seemed to define the Secretary of State’s new policy on prematurity.  The outcome seemed inevitable after the Secretary of State agreed to redetermine another case where the policy had been applied at Barton Farm Winchester last week.

However in this case

Although Pickles was being challenged for dismissing the scheme on prematurity grounds (that it would prejudice the work on the LDF), the judge ruled that, as this was not the sole reason for his refusal, the secretary of state was entitled to reach this conclusion….

But the judged ruled that Pickles’ decision was unlawful because it was inconsistent with his decision on another scheme for 269 homes on a greenfield site in Hind Heath Road, Sandbach by Richborough Estates.

The judge said the secretary of state should have considered both schemes together because there were “obvious conflicts” between the two decisions.

I have covered the Hind Heath Road appeal before.  Citing it as an example of a site which was refused before the NPPF but would have to be approved afterwards.

However in that case the SoS concluded:

The proposed development is of a size sufficient to substantially prejudice the LDF by pre-determining decisions about the scale and location of new development which are being addressed in the preparation of the Core Strategy. It is accepted that development should not be refused solely on the grounds of prematurity. But this scheme is also contrary to the development plan, contrary to wider planning objectives and contrary to the spatial vision for the area.

So all the SoS needed to have done and will do is use consistent language.  In effect the developers have lost the case.  In any event in a couple of weeks time we will have a revised policy on prematurity in the NPPF.

Wales consults on its own (very, very different) version of a Presumption in Favour of Sustainable Development #NPPF

Consultation paper here

Its sets out the background and issues in a way the English government failed to do.

Some notable contrasts with the NPPF

-The definition of sustainable development – enhancement, social justice, limits – all there.

-Stresses the plan-led approach.

Here is the proposed change to Planning Policy Wales

Presumption in favour of sustainable development
4.2.1 Sustainable development in the planning system means that social, economic and environmental issues are considered at the same time when plans are being drawn up and decisions are being taken for the future.
4.2.2 The planning system has a fundamental role in delivering sustainable development. It must provide for homes, infrastructure, investment and jobs in a way which is consistent with our sustainability principles (see section 4.3) and our key policy objectives (see section4.4)
4.2.3 Local planning authorities should exercise their planning functions with the objective of contributing to the achievement of sustainable development. There should be a presumption in favour of developments that enhance the economic, social and environmental well-being of people and communities now and over the long term (sustainable development) (see Section 4.1).
4.2.4 The presumption in favour of sustainable development is expressed through the key policy objectives set out at section 4.4 below. It will be for the decision-maker to balance and reconcile these key policy objectives when planning for their area (see Chapter 2) and in taking decisions on individual applications (see Chapter 3).
4.2.5 A plan-led approach is the most effective way to secure the presumption in favour of sustainable development at the local level. Development Plans, when adopted (or approved by the Welsh Ministers), provide the basis for this presumption to be exercised when determining individual applications (see para 2.7[new]).Consequential changes
– Paragraph 4.1.6 is replaced by new section 4.2 (above)- Section 4.2 Planning for Climate Change moves to Section 4.5, with consequential changes for the remainder of the chapter.

Had it been expressed like this in England there would have been no fuss at all.

In terms of the key issue in England of what happens when a plan has not yet been adopted or is out of date it states, and again it is very uncontroversial.

2.6 What happens when a development plan has not yet been adopted?
2.6.2 [new text at end of paragraph]
National planning policy can also be a material consideration in these circumstances.

2.7 What happens when development plan policies are outdated or superseded? (new)
2.7.1 Where development plan policies are outdated or superseded local planning authorities should give them decreasing weight in favour of other material considerations such as national planning policy in the determination of individual applications. This will ensure that decisions are based on policies which have been written with the objective of contributing to the achievement of sustainable development (see paragraph 1.1.4 and [new] section 4.2).
2.8 PPW Policy Statements (currently 2.7)
2.8.4 National development control policies set out here should, where appropriate, be considered in the determination of individual applications, particularly where national planning policy provides for a more up-to-date policy on a certain topic (see [new] paragraph 2.7 and [new] section 4.2).

Inside Housing – Years of Delay in Wales likely as Councils resist increasing housebuilding

Inside Housing

The Welsh housing system faces years of delays and legal wrangling because councils are refusing to sign up to government house building targets.

 The Welsh Government stepped up the pressure on councils to back down this week by accusing them of a ‘widespread’ misunderstanding of the likely population growth they will face in the next decade. It sets local house building targets based on the number of extra households expected to move into an area, which each of Wales’ 22 councils are meant to use to form their local development plans by 2013. The previous Welsh administration introduced the current system.

At least four councils have already submitted plans for substantially fewer homes than the Welsh Government says is necessary to meet need. They all face rejection if their evidence justifying the cut is not accepted. Five more already have an adopted plan, while the remaining councils are in the process of producing them.

Last week, Wrexham Council was the first to withdraw its plan after it was told its decision to build 8,000 homes by 2021 would fall short of the 11,700 the government projected it needs. The Welsh Government cited a lack of evidence to support the council’s plans.

This rejection came despite the plan having ‘widespread community support’, Lawrence Isted, head of community well-being and development at Wrexham Council, said.

Brecon Beacons Council, which plans to build 291 homes, said it had ‘concerns’ about how the government estimate of 540 new households was reached and said the number of homes would not be acceptable on ‘planning and sustainability grounds’. Ceredigon Council has used its own research because it said government figures are skewed by student numbers. It plans to build 6,000 homes by 2022 instead of the recommended 7,000.

Conwy Council, which will submit its plan later in the year, wants to lower its house building targets from 6,800 to 6,300.

Gareth Barton, associate director of planning consultancy Turley Associates, said councils were failing to provide enough evidence for their plans.

Rewriting the plans could take up to three years as councils engage in further consultation with residents, causing potential delays on some sites.

Cardiff Council has faced delays after government inspectors found its LDP was over-reliant on brownfield land in October 2011.

Tesco – Seeking to Protect Small Shops is ‘Red’

Some extraordinary remarks from Tesco in South Korea are reported in the FT

Tesco’s chairman in South Korea – its biggest market outside the UK – has launched an unusually caustic attack on Seoul’s policymakers, accusing them of being “red” for attempting to protect small family-run shops from the expansion of supermarkets….“Not even communist countries followed these kind of policies,” he told South Korean media at a news conference, later shown on television….

Seoul has introduced a law that smaller urban supermarkets cannot open within 1km of small stores without first gaining the local communities’ consent. It is also blocking large retailers from running certain kinds of store between midnight and 8am, when small stores generally cannot compete….

Many economists argue South Korean politicians have to protect small stores politically because welfare is so weak that there is only a patchy safety net to catch the thousands who would lose their jobs if supermarket expansion were unrestricted.

EU Human Rights Commissioner – Shortage of UK Travellers Sites Breaches Human Rights


Europe’s human rights watchdog has accused Britain of undermining the rights of gypsies and travellers to adequate housing.

Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe, said the UK authorities had to provide such housing because it was “a pre-condition for the enjoyment of other human rights, including the rights to education and health”.

A fortnight ago Mr Hammarberg wrote to secretary of state for communities and local government Eric Pickles, warning: “The continuing shortage of adequate permanent and transit sites for Gypsies and Travellers living in caravans is a priority area to address.

“By and large, local authorities have failed to provide new sites or refurbish existing sites in accordance with identified needs.”

Referring to last October’s evictions of travellers from the Dale Farm site in Basildon, Essex, Mr Hammarberg warned: “The rights to adequate housing of Travellers in Basildon have already been violated once. The authorities should ensure that no further violations take place, and should work responsibly towards a solution that is acceptable for all.”

Replying this week Mr Pickles wrote that Britain has a strong and effective legal framework “which protects everyone, including gypsies and travellers, from discrimination”.

But he acknowledged that “a shortfall of appropriate sites continues to be a problem in many areas”, pointing out that between 2000-2010, the number of caravans on “unauthorised developments” grew from 728 to 2395.

Local authorities were best placed to assess the needs of their communities, wrote Mr Pickles, “so we are placing responsibility for site provision back with them”.

He told Mr Hammarberg that the unauthorised traveller site at Dale Farm had been subject to an “exhaustive” legal process. The “clearance process” was a matter for Basildon District and had been “very much a last step in seeking to regularise the development of the site”.

The letter insisted that throughout the process the lawfulness of the process had been tested and the unacceptability of the development confirmed: “We understand the local authority urged any occupant who did not have alternative accommodation to make a homelessness application.”

Mr Hammarberg, publishing both letters today, said: “The rights of gypsies and travellers to adequate housing are undermined throughout the United Kingdom. The authorities must uphold this right.”

His letter said last October’s eviction of more than 80 traveller families from Dale Farm illustrated his concerns.

“It is highly regrettable that it was not possible for the relevant local authority to find an acceptable solution, respectful of the rights of all parties involved.”

Many of the 400 or so travellers evicted had returned to the area, either to the authorised part of the site, or parking their trailers and caravans along the roads leading to Dale Farm.

“As a result, they are currently exposed to health and safety hazards. Basildon Council has indicated that there is a possibility of further action to remove these persons from the area, without offering culturally acceptable housing alternatives.

“The commissioner calls on the Secretary of State to ensure that local authorities are made aware of the United Kingdom’s obligation to respect the right to adequate housing for all, including gypsies and travellers, and to deploy all efforts to identify sustainable solutions, respectful of cultural diversity.”