Pickles Again Makes it Up as He Goes Along on Prematurity

Planning Portal

The existence of emerging neighbourhood plans has proved a key factor in the fate of four recovered housing appeals determined by the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.

Three involved the same local planning authority, Mid Sussex District Council, and the same neighbourhood plan, drawn up by Hurstpierpoint & Sayers Parish Council. One involved Wiltshire Council and the Malmesbury Neighbourhood Plan.

The three Mid-Sussex schemes, each refused by the local planning authority, involved plans by Thakenham Homes for an 81-home development at College Lane, Hurstpierpoint; a proposal by Rydon Homes for 157 homes and 50 acres of informal parkland also at Hurstpierpoint and a housing-led, mixed-use scheme at Sayers Common involving 120 homes, a care home, retail units and offices proposed by Woodcock Holdings.

All these three cases were the subject of separate public inquiries chaired by the same planning inspector who recommended the latter case should be allowed, a stance the Secretary of State disagreed with.

However, he agreed with the recommendations of the inspector in respect of the Hurstpierpoint schemes, one of which – proposed by Rydon Homes – was allowed.

These proposals were allowed as the land involved had been identified for housing in the emerging neighbourhood plan (NP).

The Secretary of State’s decision letter said that “as the council has yet to complete an up-to-date objectively assessed housing needs analysis against which to measure the overall neighbourhood plan proposals, he considers it appropriate, as things currently stand, to tip the planning balance in favour of the emerging neighbourhood plan proposals”.

In the case of Thakenham Homes and the Woodcock Holdings schemes the SoS‘s decision letters made it clear that the fact the emerging neighbourhood plan had identified housing allocations elsewhere had tipped the planning balance.

The fourth case involved plans from developer White Lion Land for a 77-home scheme, together public open space and a community building, at Malmesbury, Wiltshire. The inspector who held the recovered appeal had recommended it should be allowed.

Pickles disagreed. His decision letter pointed out that the appeal site was towards the bottom of the list of 25 sites for housing during the neighbourhood plan assessment. The neighbourhood plan is due to be examined later this month.

Pickles said that in these circumstances “the immediate benefits of releasing the appeal site as a contribution to meeting overall housing demand in the wider area are insufficient to justify the release of this site so soon before the examination of the neighbourhood plan proposals”.

If a neighbourhood plan is advanced and the proposal is large this can tip the planning balance  against a proposal, however as para 14 of the NPPF stands if there is not an objective assessment of need this should tip teh planning balance in favour of the scheme, after all there is a presumption in favour of development.  How is an emerging neighbourhood plan different from an merging local plan? What is the incentive to get on and produce an objective assessmeny of need?  Another prematurity legal challenge coming on I fear.

One thought on “Pickles Again Makes it Up as He Goes Along on Prematurity

  1. I have been closely involved with the Hurstpierpoint Neighbourhood Plan , having had two successful planning applications in the village one for 38 unit and one for 57 units. We had 27 objections to our first scheme and only 5 to the second , both unanimously passed by the Planning Committee . This came with a lot of hard work in consulation with all parties .
    The Parish Council were told to provide around 200 units set against a population of 6,000 ( whihc in my view is at least 300 lower than needs ) and they have done what they were asked of them , but only around 80 people turned up to meetings . The irony is that the Thakeham scheme has just over 200 objections, yet the one approved the Rydon scheme had over 500 and if my local contacts are anything to go by the Thakeham scheme was certainly preferred by the local residents district council over the hated Rydon scheme . In the words of an ex district councillor the NP process has set one side of village against the other illustrating perfectly why the NP is like turkeys voting for Christmas.

    In essence the referendum is a farce because all the sites the PC suggested have been granted permission .

    This decision has significant implications for Mid Sussex, who have at best a two year supply of housing and potentially could under the duty to cooperate be asked to take some of the shortfall in Brighton.

    The implications of Mr Pickles blatant interference in the planning process during an election year undermines the NPPF and the requirement for districts to have a five year housing land supply . This will plainly lead to a reversal of the trend to meet housing needs and cut the supply of land being made available . Add to this the Conservative refusal to countenance Green Belt releases and Boris failing to provide a deliverable plan for housing in London, the Conservatives are only courting those who have a home and will alienate the younger voters.
    Mr Pickles has said with power comes responsibility , he should practice what he preaches .

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