BANES Core Strategy – Inspector Implies no Immediate Finding of Soundness/Unsoundness #NPPF

The Bath and North East Somerset Core Startegy Examnination was due to be one of the first to be concluded post NPPF.  This now looks less likley in the short term.

On the 30th of May

 The Council has been contacted by the Inspector who has confirmed that he intends to set out the way forward for the Examination by the end of June. As soon as the Council receives the Inspector’s advice it will be published on the website.

So no early finding of soundness or unsoundness.  This has to indicate a finding that more work is needed by BANES to produce a sound plan, most likely we would guess on the new soundness tests regarding meeting objectively assessed need and ‘unmet requirements from neighbouring authorities’…etc.

This underlines that so far no development post NPPF has passed muster, and with Milton Keynes next on the radar we might be waiting a long time yet.

As we Predicted Dawlish ‘Not A Neighbourhood Plan’ Fails Examination #NPPF

On Friday Christopher Balch, professor of planning at Plymouth University, and examiner into the Dawlish Not a Neighbourhood Plan published his report here.

The Key Findings are:

[It] reflects the NPPF by providing a positive approach to plan-led growth to deliver sustinable development with the aim of producing clear economic, social and environmental benefits.  However because of its timing in relation to the production of strategic policies it is not possible to demonstrate that the provision for housing growth is based on an objective assessment of housing need.  This is a key flaw…which cannot be remedied until the Teignbridge District Council’s Core strategy/Local Plan is settled.

While the DPNP is in broad conformity with the strategic policy of the Preferred Options Report, there are substantive differences in terms of both housing and employment land.  While it may be possible to resolve these, particularly as the strategic policies remain to be settled, as currently drafted the two documents are in clear conflict….

While it is not a requirement that neighbourhood plans pass the ‘test of soundness’, my assessment ..has found that it is neither positively prepared nor justified.

This leads me to recommend that the plan should not proceed to a referendum.

The inspector’s letter says ‘”It has been clear from the outset that the main purpose of the neighbourhood plan was to give the community an opportunity to help shape the emerging core strategy as it relates to Dawlish. This has been achieved.”

The examiner seems to have made an elementary mistake in not determining the conformity of the NP to the ‘strategic policies of the development plan’ (an old style local plan) but to an emerging plan.  Where in the NPPF does it give too different definitions to the term ‘development plan’.  It is difficult to see a trained inspector making this error.  How can you judge conformity to something a replacement plan which doesnt yet exist?  Indeed the examiner said it wasnt possible.  Imagine an examination is a few years time where one local plan with strategic policies is being replaced by another plan with strategic policies, the examiner seems to have sown confusion by adding the principle that doesn’t exist in the NPPF that the ‘development plan’ means one thing for decision making and another definition n(which he has made up on the fly and is nowhere in the NPPF) for neighbourhood plan making.

The report is also somewhat laborious in seemingly testing the NP against every para of the NPPF, where in the NPPF does it say that? It says it for local plans but not neighbourhood plans.  Also he tests the plan against the soundness tests – again not required – he made it up as he went along.  Yes there does need to be a test that neighbourhood plans need to be justifed by evidence and effectivge but that is a fault of the NPPF which should be pointed out.  Again it gives the impression that NP examinations should be painful and laborious, no the aim is for them to be short and lightweight with reports quickly issues and very short, if that is the main issues of need and national policy conformity are dealt with at the local plan examination.

The report is 42 pages long, many core strategy reports are 6 pages long (though without of course allocations).  Clearly not a good precedent and showing that the way NP examinations are supposed to work in the NPPF is unclear and not fit for purpose.

Where next?  Well if the Local Plan fully meets housing need it might need an additional housing site.  If it reduces housing targets in the niave way it recently proposed it would need less.  Which means of course the strategic issues need to be resolved first.

Another DCLG Sheridan Spin Fail – Granny Flat Divisions arn’t charged council tax – Tax Subsidy for Nanny Flats and Sheds in Beds

The furious spinning this morning over the help towards ‘Granny Annexes’ seemed to have instantly dissembled.

Local Governments have been stating that both internal subdivisions and self contained annexes to form ‘granny annexes’ – if ‘occupied by completely dependant relatives over the age of 65’ have not been separately charged council tax since 1997, even if they are empty.  So precisely which problem is this trying to solve? Self contained annexes are valued separately but not charged if occupied by an elderly relative as above.  If then they are not separately valued it will benefit those with elderly relatives not a penny.  Not a granny flat tax break then then but a tax break for ‘nanny flats’ and even ‘sheds with beds’ type conversions of rear outbuildings etc.  by people claiming they are ‘relatives’ which they always do anyway to argue that the subdivision or annex/outbuilding is not development or permitted development anyway.

And also as we stated earlier subdivision to form accommodation for the same member of the household wont normally need separate planning consent.  to be more specific in it remains in the same planning unit sharing the same access, parking area etc, separate self contained access will require consent (UCO 1987 Article 4).  The following advice from one district sums up the issue well

The use of existing rooms within a dwellinghouse for the purpose of accommodating a dependent relative or member of domestic staff would not normally require any form of planning permission. However the person using the annex should be clearly associated with the occupants of the principal dwelling house e.g. dependent relative or domestic staff working for the residents of the principal dwelling. Planning Permission will be required to create a separate flat with an independent entrance, which could either be let or sold separately to the principal dwelling as this would constitute the creation of a new habitable dwelling irrespective of who is occupying it. Such a separate use of accommodation would be considered as “primary residential accommodation” and as such, would require planning permission.

The key caselaw is Uttlesford D.C v SSE & RJ Whitw 1992 which established that it is not necessary for a relative of the occupier of the main dwellinghouse in order to maintain additional living accommodation in the same planning unit.

In a case regarding the use of outbuildings as a separate dwelling an inspector taking note of the Uttlesford case and was satisfied that occupation by the two sons of the residents of the main house maintained the planning unit (Epping Forest DCS 11/11/94 DCS No.O55-153-386)

Furthermore conditions which prevent certain rooms in a dwelling being used for living or sleeping accommodation what been found unreasonable (Rochford D.C 12/4/2000 DCS No )41-271-352.

So it will only require PP when it is a separate dwelling forming a seperate planning unit.  Bizarrely the changes would make it far easier to create ‘sheds with beds’ type units or ‘nanny annexes’.

Yet another example of an embarrassing cock up of spin by DCLG through not doing simple fact checking or checking how changes ‘join up’ across a department head (with associated quiffs) must roll.

‘Nudge’ Approach to Housing Adopted with Tax Break on Granny Flats – But Granny in a ‘shed with bed’!


Ministers are expected to abolish council tax for “annexes” used by family members to encourage pensioners to move in with relations.

The Government will also consider overhauling planning regulations and fees to make it easier to adapt garages and other outbuildings.

The Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, said it was “fundamentally unfair” for households to be charged twice by paying council tax on their homes as well as the annexes.

“We are keen to remove tax and other regulatory obstacles to families having a live-in annexe for immediate relations,” he said. “We should support home owners who want to improve their properties and standard of living. These reforms should also play a role in increasing the housing supply.”

Under existing rules, “granny flats” are regarded as separate dwellings and are liable to be charged full rates of council tax by local authorities, which typically exceed £1,000 a year.

Officials estimate that the change could benefit as many as 300,000 households in England.

The reforms, which are likely to require legislation, are expected to form part of a package of policies to address the shortage of affordable homes over the next two years. The Government has already supported moves to encourage pensioners to downsize and allow councils to rent out their family homes.

Research last year estimated that 25 million bedrooms in England were empty.

At the same time, high property prices are forcing young families to squeeze into small homes. With almost a fifth of the population expected to be older than 65 by 2020, ministers believe “radical and urgent” reforms are needed.

The annexes could also be used to accommodate young people looking to make their first step on to the housing ladder.

Currently, an annex does not need to have its own front door to be counted as a separate dwelling but it would be expected to have distinct living and sleeping areas, and a kitchen and bathroom.

Some discounts for the elderly living in annexes already exist. However, when part of a house has been adapted as a “granny annexe”, it continues to be counted separately for council tax, even when it is no longer occupied.

Ministers also intend to review legislation to remove red tape that can make it more difficult for home owners to adapt properties.

Currently, garage conversions require planning permission and officials are concerned that too many councils refuse to approve schemes.

The review will also consider scrapping the need for households to pay for planning agreements on how the flats will be used, which can cost more than £1,000.

A government source said: “Such a policy would make it easier for families to expand their homes and offer accommodation to extended families, without the hassle and cost of moving home.”

The Department for Communities and Local Government acknowledged in a policy document on the proposals that the law on council tax for annexes was “complex”.

Ros Altmann, director-general of Saga, the over-50s group, said the reforms could be a “benefit” for families that would otherwise struggle to afford the cost of care for relations.

However, she warned that the elderly must not be forced to move out of their own homes.

Sorry but this shows a total lack of coherence of government policy.  At the same time as the government is cracking down on ‘sheds with beds’ which in large part are a problem because it is too easy to build outbuildings and convert garages if you claim that they are for ‘family members’.  So instead the government proposes to add fuel to the fire and what is more subsidise them.  The answer is not to remove planning consent but to extend it but to make it easier and cheaper in genuine cases, such as at the side or rear of a house for those who can demonstrate close family membership.  The section 106 issue referred too is an easy one to solve, simply publish a standard unilateral undertaking and then the cost is only the engrossment fee – £25 rather than £1,000.  Their is a basic error also, the conversion of a garage per-se will normally not be development.  What might require PP or be PD is either the subdivision of the dwelling or the replacement of the front garage door with a window.  Do we really want to remove PP for the subdivision of dwellings with the acute subdivision problems we see in many areas that have paralell ‘beds with sheds’ problems, where you often see small properties subdivided and occupied to victorian slum levels?  Yet again a DCLG fail in terms of analysis and solution – not every problem can be solved through only ‘cutting red tape’.  The DCLG has to move back from the failed ideological slant to determining what mix of regulation and deregulation is suited to the task, and also determining what the multiple objectives of policy, pushing in different directions, are.  This includes both helping genuine cases of aiding elderly and disabled members of a family (not just any extended family which is open to abuse) whilst clamping down on excessive subdivision and outbuildings which result in overcrowding and poor conditions.  One solution to this has to be minimum room sizes and occupancy controls,