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.
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.
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.