What if a Green Belt Authority Decided Not to Update its Local Plan?

That is the option open following Brandon Lewis’s statement.

The problem is this might very well create ‘very special circumstances’ by way of its unprecedented approach which goes no resolution to where and how unmet housing need is to be met.

Green Belt post-war has always meant to be only one half of the policy response.  The other being developing sufficient housing outside the Green Belt.  We now have a supposed mechanism to ensure that happens.  Local Plan review, independent examination and the DTC.

If this mechanism was no longer available the LPA would not be able to say that in due course the shortfall would be met – just hang on.

Now revised guidance of course now says:

Unmet housing need (including for traveller sites) is unlikely to outweigh the harm to the Green Belt and other harm to constitute the “very special circumstances” justifying inappropriate development on a site within the Green Belt.

Which is nothing more than the transpoisition of the findings of the Hunston St Albans Case.

 There may be nothing special, and certainly nothing “very special” about a shortfall in a district which has very little undeveloped land outside the Green Belt.  But ultimately that is a matter of planning judgment for the decision-maker.”

But that was in the context of, at long last, a local plan review and strategic Green Belt Review.

In the Thundersley Case the SoS acknowledged that housing need could be VSC but as the local plan was under review

In the Secretary of State’s view, whilst the now withdrawn CS was in preparation, there were no real drivers to ensure that the Council pressed ahead. With the publication of the NPPF, he is more positive than the Inspector that the Council can achieve its’ programme for LP adoption, especially given the drivers within it.

Brandon Lewis has now just removed these drivers.  There is now a potential loophole in the NPPF, there is no real incentive for an LPA with high Green Belt coverage to review their local plan.

The risk though is that if one LPA decided on the unprecendented step of not having a local plan, or was so covertly slow it was obvious this was the intention, that the unprecedented nature of this would mean an inspector might conclude that there was something special, and potentially very special about an LPA that decided it was going to defy national planning policy and not meet housing need in full, as well as not providing an opportunity for the community, landowners and developers to comment on this. Unlikely does not mean never.  It depends on the circumstances.  If it meant never the SoS would have said so.  Special here being the context it is used in education, a simile for retarded.

Any LPA going down this route would be at high risk of losing an appeal on VSC grounds and it would not even have the defense of prematurity, tempting developer to appeal on the kind of big strategic site many are hesitant to appeal on at the moment.

 

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