PAS Gets it wrong on Conformity

The new Plans FAQ

Q: It is understood that there is no longer a requirement for the chain of conformity to be retained between the core strategy and the ‘second tier’ plans. Is this correct and if so is there a maximum deviation away from the strategic policies that the second tier plan can plan for if a need is identified?

 A: Although there is no longer the need for other plans to conform to the core strategy, something that fundamentally changes that strategy is likely to require the strategy to be reviewed alongside allocations work. Reasons could include significantly different levels of housing, or reviewing the green belt where a review was not planned for.

Errr no – its making the logical error of assuming significance of an absence.  True it no longer uses the term ‘chain of conformity’ but that does not mean it is necessary, just as the absence of the term ‘plan monitor manage’ does not mean you should not no longer monitor.  The NPPF is an exercise in Haiku like minimalism without any of the poetic effect.

After all the NPPF does require Neighourhood plans to be in general conformity with strategic local plan policies, and neighourhood plans are just allocation plans approved by special procedure.  The NPPF says that for very good reason – any allocation plan that was not in gneral conformity would be unlawful, possibly breaching the EU SEA direwctive, various other statutory doties etc. all tested.  So it is implied, and specifcially it says p182):

‘the plan should be prepared based on a strategy

‘the plan should be the most appropriate strategy

Plan here referring to the whole plan. So to zone without a strategy is known as ‘spot zoning’ and as the Americans discovered a long time ago doing that is unlawful based on English Principles of common law – rationality, consistency, justification, non discrimination, public interest not private interest etc.  So the NPPF does not open the gates to willful spot zoning.

P.S. I think the omission of the ‘general conformity’ rule to all allocation plans was just a stupid error as it has no justification.



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