How this Inspector’s Letter Could Have Been Written to Maker it Clearer

I’ve been campaigning on this blog about ways in which planning decisions can be made easier to understand for non-planning professionals.

I’ll give an example here of a very short decision which in no way uses bad english but is still confusing but it is an example of ‘institutional obfusication’ that is unless you now the terms in question, where you are in the process etc. you would have no idea what is going on.

Charnwood

Dear Mr Bennett, Examination of Charnwood Local Plan: Core Strategy 1.

Following the close of the hearing sessions on 16 January 2015 and the Council’s request for me to recommend modifications to address matters of soundness,I am now able to confirm the way forward for the examination.

As set out in my letter of 1 April 2014 following the initial hearing sessions, I am satisfied that the Council has complied with the duty to co-operate in the preparation of the Core Strategy. Whilst I have concluded that the submitted Core Strategy is not sound in a number of respects, I consider that it can be made sound through main modifications.

I can confirm therefore that I will be liaising with the Council via the Programme Officer in order to produce a series of main modifications. These will need to be subject to sustainability appraisal and full public consultation for a period of at least six weeks. You confirmed at the closing session for the hearings that the Council will be able to facilitate this process.

I will take account of comments received on the main modifications, along with the additional sustainability appraisal before finalising my report. The Programme Officer will discuss detailed arrangements for publication and consultation on the main modifications and I will then be in a position to indicate the likely date for submitting my report to the Council. A copy of this letter should be added to the examination library.

Yours sincerely …INSPECTOR

Now Lets look at a suggested approach, its the principles here which are important.  Im sure with a full day to do it it could be made a lot better.

Dear Mr Bennett,

Examination of Charnwood Local Plan: Core Strategy 1.

What I have to Decide

I chaired public hearing (an examination in public) into this local plan which closed on the 16 January 2015.  A local plan is a statutory document used to determine planning applications, what goes where and when.  By law I have to decise as an independent inspector whether it is lawful and sound. (Sound means it meets a number of minimum good practice requirements set out in national planning policy.  A can cannot be finally approved (adiopted) until it has been found sound.

My Decision

I have not found the plan sound because in does not fully meet the requirements of national planning policy (the National Planning Policy Framework);In particular not meeting in full the housing need for the area.  I have set out my preliminary findings on these matters in a previous letter. The plan is capable of being modified to make it sound, so I am keeping the examination open to enable to plan to be so modified and to here representations on those modifications.

What Happens Next

I will be liaising with the Council,via the Programme Officer, in order to suggest a series of modifications, in particular on the issue of housing requirements. These will need to be subject to sustainability appraisal and full public consultation which Charnwood DC, if they agree with them, will undertake over a period of at least six weeks.

I will take account of comments received on the modifications and  the additional sustainability appraisal before finalising my decision and my report.  My final decision is not predetermined.  These changes to the plan will raise new issues which the public have not commented on before.  I will hear new representations with an open mind.  These representations should be to the new modifications only.

The Programme Officer will discuss detailed arrangements for publication and consultation on these modifications.  I will then indicate the likely date for submitting my report to the Council. A copy of this letter should be added to the examination library.

Yours sincerely …INSPECTOR

A small point.  The public often feel they are being railroaded in such letters with the additional consultation being a formality.  It is incumbent on PINS to stress that they treat each result of consultation ‘de novo’ to use the legal jargon, otherwise public trust in PINs might decline to the point where a commons vote on their abolition could succeed.

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Cuadrilla Promises to Spend 5 million to Quieten Fracking in Face of Certain Refusal

Telegraph

Cuadrilla has pledged to spend £5m on fracking more quietly, in an attempt to address planning officers’ concerns over noise from its proposed sites in Lancashire.

The shale gas explorer on Friday asked Lancashire County Council to delay crunch votes on its plans in order to allow consultation on new noise and traffic mitigation measures.

Council planners on Wednesday recommended that councillors refuse permission for Cuadrilla to frack at two sites between Preston and Blackpool, when they vote on the proposals next week.

Likely noise levels at the Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood siteswould have “significant adverse effects on health and quality of life”, the planning officer said.

He also raised concerns about the “severe” impact of lorry movements to and from the Roseacre site.

Cuadrilla had argued it would represent an “unreasonable burden” to further limit the noise levels, but on Friday set out plans to do so at a cost of about $3m-$4m (£2m-£2.7m) per site.

These would include “a further sound barrier around the major parts of the drilling rig along with other measures such as additional shielding around individual components of the drilling rig” at Preston New Road.

“The detail of this additional mitigation requires proper consultation and planning regulations clearly require this,” Cuadrilla said. “We have therefore also requested a deferral in the determination of our planning applications to allow for this consultation to take place.”

The company did not disclose the total cost of its fracking plans but said total site construction would have been less than £2m each.

It secured funding of £60m from British Gas owner Centrica in a 2013 deal to fund the exploration and appraisal programme, implying total works at each site may be about £30m.

A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said that a decision on the request would not be made until the planning committee met on Wednesday, when it was scheduled to vote on the proposals.

Cuadrilla’s proposed fracking sites

Planning guidelines say that noise should be kept to within 10 decibels (dB) above background levels by day, and be set to “reduce to a minimum any adverse impacts” by night, in both cases without imposing “unreasonable burdens” on the operator.

At Preston New Road, Cuadrilla’s drilling would have exposed nearby properties to noise about 12.5dB above background levels by night.

At Roseacre, nighttime drilling would have raised levels by 13.3dB, while daytime noise would have been increased by 14.6dB from the company fracking, which it has said it will only undertake by day.

In both cases Cuadrilla had told the planning officer that “a range of noise attenuation measures could be employed to reduce noise levels but that further attenuation would result in unreasonable burden”.

Francis Egan, Cuadrilla chief executive, said on Wednesday that the planning officer’s recommendation was a “surprise” and that appeared to be introducing a tough new precedent because other onshore drilling operations had only had to comply with the maximum thresholds, which Cuadrilla’s plans already did.

The new nighttime noise levels under plans set out on Friday would reduce the noise further to be within 10dB above background levels.

A spokesman for the company said it was also working on measures to bring the daytime noise at Roseacre to within the 10dB limit.

Fracking opponents condemned Cuadrilla’s latest announcement. Helen Rimmer, Friends of the Earth’s campaigner for the North West, said: “This is yet another example of Cuadrilla trying to circumvent the planning process and creating more uncertainty for communities by doing so.

“They’ve had months to get the information right and it’s outrageous to make such a last minute request.

“Two thirds of people in Lancashire don’t want to see fracking in the county and the Council must refuse the deferral and turn down Cuadrilla’s controversial plans.”