Apologies for not reporting the Hasting Inspectors decision before. It has become political because Nick Herbert MP in Arun has quoted it to Arun District council there who rejected his advice to set a target well below their objectively assessed need’.
‘I would like to draw to your attention to Hastings Borough Council’s plan. This proposed a housing number that was HALF their objectively assessed housing need. Significantly, the Planning Inspector has just passed the plan, specifically endorsing the lowered housing number, on the basis that protected landscapes and “exceedingly pleasant … open land … providing an integral part of an attractive rural setting” present “constraints [which] are valuable assets which give the Borough its unique charm, character and appeal” (Report, 21 October 2013, paras 55 and 56 – see here)’… the key point is not to compare Hastings and Arun directly: it is that the principle that lower housing numbers CAN be set has been established and endorsed by the Inspectorate. This case was drawn to my attention by the Planning Minister when I raised these issues with him.
The Hasting Decision turns on the fact that Hastings has a very tight boundary which on its land side is all AONB. Arun on the other hand has major areas outside AONB. Also Arun went through the DTC process in asking its landside authority Rother to take the overspill, and their own inspector as a result is looking at raising tripling its target. In that report
(2010 based) household projections and the County Council’s estimates for dwelling requirements that relate to them suggest a trend based dwelling requirement of 7,493 dwellings during the plan period, an annual average of 441 and more than twice the amount proposed in the Planning Strategy. Following the requirements of the Framework, particularly its paragraph 178, and in line with the good working arrangements between the 2 Councils, the Borough Council in its letter of 7 March 2013 formally requested Rother District Council to consider the extent to which it might assist in meeting the Borough’s housing requirement of 7,493 dwellings. In this way, the Council explored the implications of this trend-based projection to its logical conclusion and the possibility of meeting the Borough’s full, objectively assessed housing needs.
The Chief Executive of Rother District Council replied to the Borough Council’s request in his letter of 9 April 2013. He refers to a similar request from the Inspector examining the District Council’s Local Plan Core Strategy in which she refers to a figure of 9,979 dwellings as the trend-based projection for Rother District during the plan period which is more than twice that contained for it in the South East Plan. This is described as a dramatic change in approach to housing requirements. The letter states that the stark proposition is that Rother increases its housing provision from the South East Plan’s figure of some 4,800 dwellings 2011-2028 to some 13,765 dwellings, this being the sum of the 9,979 dwellings above plus the balance of 3,786 dwellings that cannot be met in Hastings …
I am not aware of all the planning circumstances in Rother District, but the crucial point here is that I am satisfied that the Borough Council has done everything asked of it to explore the possibility of meeting its needs beyond its boundary. The level of housing growth set out in Planning Strategy should be supported as explained later in this Report. It would be unreasonable to fail the plan and deem it unsound on matters outside its control and upon which it has vigorously sought to resolve.
The inspector at Rother has yet to conclude. However it now finds its objectively assessed need has risen by 3,786 dwellings. It remained an option for Arun to say that it could not meet its own need however para 14 of the NPPF requires that objectively assessed need be met in full unless (para 14.)
any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in this Framework taken as a whole; or
–– specific policies in this Framework indicate development should be restricted
Remember the NPPF does not protect green field sites per-se so the only possible breach would be with Para. 152
Local planning authorities should seek opportunities to achieve each of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, and net gains across all three. Significant adverse impacts on any of these dimensions should be avoided and, wherever possible, alternative options which reduce or eliminate such impacts should be pursued.
And the ‘positively prepared’ and justified tests from para 184.
Positively prepared – the plan should be prepared based on a strategy which seeks to meet objectively assessed development and infrastructure requirements, including unmet requirements from neighbouring authorities where it is reasonable to do so and consistent with achieving sustainable development;
Justified – the plan should be the most appropriate strategy, when considered against the reasonable alternatives, based on proportionate evidence;
Both of which are slightly oblique references to the EU SEA directive (2001/42/EC) which requires strategies (remembers strategies not plans) to consider reasonable alternatives, and a strategy can look beyond a plan area.
Now it would be reasonable for a strategy to consider alternatives to developing what little land remains between the South Downs National Park and Sussex Coast Towns, such as developing a new settlement north of the South Downs near Haywards Heath as has been proposed. Nick Herbert MP could have raised this and suggested this as an alternative that should be considered in the SEA. Because he has not done so, he has not suggested an alternative location to meet the NPPF, his statements don’t comply with national policy and should be ignored. It is very unclear as far as I can see if Nick Herbert is campaigning against the houses in his constituency as breaching national policy, or campaigning against national policy so housing can and will be blocked anywhere and everywhere, we should know.
I need to stress that Nick Herbert MP was quite wrong in stating that Arun was in the report setting a housing target. That was wrong all it was doing was setting its objectively assessed need based on a SHMA update (a waste of £21k if ever there was one)though the wording of the officers recommendation was needlessly woolly ‘the council needs to plan for’ (rather it is the SHMA figures as a whole which coastal west susses and its neighbours need to plan for)). This any authority needs to do before choosing sites, strategy and SEAing them. Establishing need is not the same as setting a target. What is the MP suggesting they do, the supreme idiocy of Tandridge District Cllrs in rejecting a SHMA report, which would only lead to a flood of no hope appeals in the very fields Nick Herbert wants to protect?
Incidentally I think the new strategic planning area of ‘coastal West Sussex’ – launched this week, is bonkers. The proper strategic planning area should be the Greater Brighton Conurbation – including Worthing and Arun, and the road/rail corridor to London via Gatwick.