On top of the decision that the help line can’t help interpret the meaning of the #NPPF in its dozens of ambiguous cases.
We now have Greg Clark
Speaking this week in London at a seminar run by lobby group the British Property Federation, Clark said the NPPF is a “framework for local decision-taking” and it is for councils to make judgements on its interpretation.
But planning consultants and lawyers see several areas of the NPPF as potential battlegrounds. In particular, questions have been raised about how far local plans can conflict with the NPPF during the 12-month grace period councils have to bring plans into line with national policy.
The NPPF says that councils with local plans adopted after 2004 may give full weight to relevant policies in the plans even if there is a “limited degree of conflict” with the NPPF.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said that planning inspectors would assess this on a “case-by-case basis”.
Another issue is how much extra land for housing councils need to plan for on top of the required five years supply. The NPPF says that councils with “a record of persistent underdelivery of housing” should provide an extra 20 per cent buffer. Those with a good record can plan for just five per cent, it says.
Clark said he “did not want to appear to offer an interpretation” on what would be considered persistent underdelivery, but councils should not have to plan for a full extra 20 per cent of land if they have fulfilled their housing obligations.
The DCLG spokeswoman said that it is for councils to decide “based on evidence of performance”, but they may be challenged by developers.
There is all the difference in the word between a council interpreting how to apply the meaning of a section to their local circumstances and trying to interpret what the hell it means in the first instance.
It then is left to battle it out in appeals, and ultimately to the SoS anyway in major cases, to fight it out. A total recipe for chaos. The NPPF simply becomes a document that means what you like when you like.
This will be a chaotic situation for planning inspectors faced with making many judgements – which could then be challenged in court.
Some issues of course, as with any new plan at any level, require some common sense in interpretation. But this goes beyond common sense into a fog of indeterminacy.
Take the issue for example of ‘evidence of performance’ over underlivery. There are lots of sensible ways this could have been defined. Off the top of my head – falling short by more than 10% over three or more years – for example. But without a definition or even a rule of thumb in guidance not a single authority in the country with a shortfall will be able with certianty to construct a housing trajectory. The NPPF and the plan led system is supposed to be all about certainty, instead with have an ever muddier quagmire.
Will every LPA in the country now have to monitor every little appeal on the meaning and approach taken by other LPAs and the Inspectorate on every issue of uncertainty?
This fog is the result of one thing, a fuzzy document written to please all sides and mean all things to all people, finished in a rush following treasury arguments, without even having considered all consultation responses (still not published) and where it is no clear that Greg Clark, who personally cut and pasted the paragraphs, did not understand what many key passages meant.