The Mayor of London and SE authorities, and LPAs across many regions, are busy resurrecting strategic planning arrangements as it is the only way for them to bring forward local plans which are 5 year compliant. This clearly has alarmed Eric and Brandon.
In an extraordinarily bone headed lets hope it will all go away letter to the London Mayor Brandon states:
The National Planning Policy Framework “is clear that the green belt should be given the highest protection in the planning system and is an environmental constraint which may impact on the ability of authorities to meet their housing need”.
No there is no one reference in the NPPF as to Green Belt being a constraint, the reference is in NPPG which Ministers have been adamant is not a change in policy.
Do local planning authorities have to meet in full housing needs identified in needs assessments?… in so doing take account of any constraints such as Green Belt, which indicate that development should be restricted and which may restrain the ability of an authority to meet its need.
The term ‘environmental constraint’ is used nowhere in the guidance. Paragraph: 044 Reference ID: 3-044-20141006 lists a range of restrictions where para 14 of the NPPF does not apply but uses neither the term constraint or environment.
This is important for two reasons. Firstly DCLG tells us every word in the NPPF matters and has meaning. Are lesser standards to be applied to NPPG? Secondly the courts are quite clear there is a distinction between environmental and policy constraints and if Lewis wants to change this he needs to change the NPPF and possibly even change the law. The NPPF is clear the Green Belt is purely a policy constraint, if land meets Green Belt purposes it serves a policy function. This is important because it allows LPAs to redraw boundaries when the exceptional circumstances test is met. The landscape and environmental quality and state of land in Green Belt is not material, all that matters is Green Belt Purposes are met, and which might be met with completely degraded land.
The second area where Lewis is making it up as he goes along is ‘the green belt should be given the highest protection in the planning system’ no it inst – other designations such as National Park and AONB enjoy statutory not just policy protection. If he wants to change this to make Green Belt the absolute restriction more important than anything else it never has been he needs to change the law.
However as it is spelt ‘green belt, not ‘Green Belt’ it is clear the letter has not been written by Steve Quartermain, no planner would not follow the convention, but by Eric’s SPAD Sheriden Westlake. In other words its gobshite, any cllr using it should remember what happened when they believed a letter from Caroline Spelman.
I dont think it would be long before this matter reached the courts if any LPA based a local plan submission on it. I think Lewis is trying to wriggle out of the IM Properties V Lichfield case and trying to apply a falsification doctrine on Green Belt release and imply it should be treated as a ‘last resort’ when the courts held this was incompatible with the sustainable development duty.