Feniton Super Inquiry to be First Test of Revised Guidance on Prematurity #NPPF

Feniton is a small village on the rail line between Honiton and Exeter.  The draft local plan allocation 35 houses, no 5 year land supply, 50 houses already granted on appeal, around 250 more already applied for and more expected.  The local plan submitted in Auguest favours a new settlement to the west at Cranbook instead.

The enormous pressure that this and many other small villages are under illustrate the problems the NPPF creates with no effective limit on the growth of small villages when there is no five year supply. Now at last we have revised guidance on prematurity issued for consultation and this will be tested at a super inquiry for all three appeals which have been cojoined,  Susie Bond

Following a request from EDDC planning officers, the Planning Inspectorate has decided to hold a ‘Super Inquiry’ in which all parties (Feniton Park Ltd for Acland Park, Strategic Land Partnership for the land west of Ottery Road (Camp Field) and Wainhomes for an extension to the 50 homes allowed at appeal last August) will argue their case in front of a Planning Inspector.

If allowed, these developments would not only increase the size of the village by over 40%, but would send out a very clear message that Feniton is up for grabs. Indeed, agents for landowners adjoining these sites have made submissions to the draft Local Plan championing further development.

The difference now is that the East Devon plan has been submitted with a clear target for Feniton, already exceeded, and Cranbrook being the preferred location for growth,

Hence the rules of prematurity apply including one hopes by the time of the inquiry the new guidance now at consultation.  The guidance is little difference to its predecessor in ‘Planning System General Principles’ but the fact this was so old and not included in the NPPF created confusion now its clear.

arguments that an application is premature are unlikely to justify a refusal of planning permission other than in exceptional circumstances (where it is clear that the adverse impacts of granting permission would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, taking the policies in the Framework and any other material considerations into account). Such circumstances are likely to be limited to situations where both:

  1. the development proposed is so substantial, or its cumulative effect would be so significant, that to grant permission would undermine the plan-making process by predetermining decisions about the scale, location or phasing of new development that are central to an emerging Local Plan or neighbourhood plan; and
  2. the emerging plan is at an advanced stage but has not yet been adopted (or, in the case of a neighbourhood plan, been made).

Refusal of planning permission on grounds of prematurity will seldom be justified where a draft Local Plan has yet to be submitted for examination

These cases appears to tick all of these boxes, the exceptional circumstances test appears to be met so the appeals seem unlikely to succeed.  Indeed the developers are on a hiding to nothing – either

a) They can each individually argue that there site should go ahead but not the other one or two, which rather makes the LPAs case; or

b) They can argue all three should go ahead, which makes it much more loikley that the inspector will decide the ‘cumulative effect’ clause has been met; or

c) They can argue the local plan is undeliverable and Fenition should take more development, to which the easy response is argue that at the plan PLI in a few months.

Indeed I don’t think even masarati driving planning barristers can see a way out of this one.

A word about the word ‘exceptional’  of course if every not yet adopted plan was submitted and the scheme met clause a then it would not be exceptional it would be the rule.  Exceptional; here is a synomym for a rarely achieved set of circumstances not one where the weight of harm has to be greater than  the substantial harm test.  If the rules are found to be met we are in the land of rules not exceptions and there would have to be strong material planning reasons why national policy should not apply.