Lets recap NPPG
Refusal of planning permission on grounds of prematurity will seldom be justified where a draft Local Plan has yet to be submitted for examination, or in the case of a Neighbourhood Plan, before the end of the local planning authority publicity period. Where planning permission is refused on grounds of prematurity, the local planning authority will need to indicate clearly how the grant of permission for the development concerned would prejudice the outcome of the plan-making process.
In the Haddenham case it wasn’t even through initial consultation yet. The perverse situation here is that LPAs are obligated to recommend that such cases are refused, and the SOS in calling them in is stalling for time to allow the Neighbourhood plan to reach an advanced stage.
So rather than a system that speeds decisions and sees more local decisions we have a system that incentives their slowing down and more decisions being made by the SoS personally.
If the SoS wishes to allow for prematurity to be considered early that NPPG should state so. If a draft local plan or NP clearly targets to meet need then prematurity should be arguable at draft plan stage, but of lesser weight. Then LPAs would have an incentive to be realistic on OAN in plans. The risk is then that LPAs stall or slip up on plan making. This risk can be averted if NPPF/NPPG made it clear that LPAs should then invite applications to come forward to meet any shortfall and make it material that schemes are of greater sustainability and planning merit, including in terms of compliance with an existing or draft plan strategy. This would then put the onus on LPAs and neighbourhoods to decide where any shortfall is meet rather than the current BWYLWYL system.