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.

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

  1. Pingback: ‘Sustainability’ and ‘Prematurity’ | Susie Bond

  2. Hi Andrew. Very interesting article, I was wondering if you could tell me if similar principles occur where I live, which is also in East Devon (so LP progression is equivalent to Feniton)? The parish where I live sits within AONB land, and has been allocated 40 houses in the developing LP. We already have two applications in for 40-50 houses, both on greenfield sites, with more waiting in the wings. My concern is that these applications may recklessly be given approval without considering the optimum site(s) for development in the parish over the longer term (most parishioners said they preferred a number of small developments rather than one larger housing estate).

    Despite it being on a smaller scale than Feniton, can prematurity be argued for this parish given that acceptance of either one of these sites would fulfil the entire parish allocation in one go, thereby inevitably predetermining the location of development in the parish before LP adoption? The Villages Development Plan is due to go up for public consultation this autumn, in which strategic sites for development should be determined. There is a severe danger that decisions will be made on one, if not both, of these developments before this consultation has taken place or the plan adopted.

  3. Thank you, Andrew. Just to update you, the first of these applications was yesterday unanimously approved by the District Council’s Development Management Committee. Despite prematurity being raised as an issue before and during the meeting, it was not considered or discussed at all. However, in the discussion it was acknowledged that it would be difficult for subsequent applications to gain approval in the parish, and reluctantly conceded that this is effectively a ‘first past the post’ system. I was under the impression that this is exactly the situation that guidelines on prematurity are designed to avoid?

    It was noted that it is unfortunate that we do not have a Neighbourhood Plan for the parish. Some time ago, requests for one were vetoed by our Parish Council Chair of Planning (involved in early discussions with developers about this application, spoke in support of it as an individual, would not allow another councillor to represent the council’s position against the application) on the grounds of it being too much effort/cost. We are (were!) entirely reliant on the District Council’s Local Plan and associated Villages Development Plan to protect us from inappropriate development. These plans are at advanced stages of development but not yet adopted.

    Would there be grounds for Judicial Review, should another landowner wish to challenge it, in your opinion? One of the other applications was inexplicably held up in the system by sitting unprocessed on someone’s desk for several weeks, otherwise it may also have been considered at yesterday’s meeting. This has allowed the application given approval yesterday to pass the ‘post’ unhindered, taking the entire parish housing allocation as its prize.

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