I will split reporting on this important (must read interim findings across several posts. One section deserves highlighting.
If there was a golden rule for inspectors it is dont ever ever comment on the precedent status of another inspector’s report without having read that report. Just check the following rather embarrassing mess the Stratford inspector gets themselves into.
By reference to my colleague’s report for Derby/South Derbyshire/ Amber Valley it is submitted that where one part of the HMA is capacity-capped, all reasonable alternatives for the distribution and apportionment of OAN must be tested through SA. It is claimed that the position in Derbyshire is analogous to Warwickshire where the capacity of Coventry is capped. [This is preceisly the same issue in forthcoming reports relating to Cambridgeshire and Oxfordshire which it is why it is so important to get this right.’]
It is said this is an important failing because there are previously-developed sites that are not just reasonable but preferable alternatives to the release of Green Belt.
The Council does not accept that it can be held not to have tested the reasonable alternatives in failing to commission an SA for the HMA, especially when the 6 constituent authorities are at different stages of plan preparation. It points out that the SHMA Addendum changed the OAN for Coventry markedly at the point where the CS was due to be submitted for examination. To the extent that Coventry might not be able to meet its own needs this is a DtC issue, which is capable of being addressed via a review policy, such as Policy CSxx. A similar approach has recently been endorsed by the Inspector in Lichfield.
I have not been provided with my colleague’s report for Derbyshire, but it would appear that was a joint plan or joint submission, which contrasts with the divergent status of plans in Warwickshire. I find no basis to conclude that there is a requirement for a joint plan at an HMA level, which is illustrated by my colleague’s finding of soundness for North Warwickshire. Accordingly I consider that the answer to this claim lies in Regulation 12 of the 2004 Regulations, which refers to reasonable alternatives in terms of the geographical scope of the plan. It must follow that there was no requirement on this Council to identify reasonable alternatives beyond the geographical sphere of the CS which was restricted to the Council’s administrative boundary.
No Amber Valley was not a joint plan or joint submission, quite the opposite. Amber Valley is part of the Greater Derby HMA. Originally it submitted in advance of the other two to prempt the findings of joint work and premept a strategic Green Belt review. South Derbyshire and Derby proceeded seperately to exmination. The Amber Valley inspector initially suspended the examination in 2014 to enable further SHMA work to be done.
Saying ‘I have not been provided with my colleague’s report’ is pure laziness, you can ask for it and in 30 seconds Google it.
The key in Derbyshire is the Amber Valley and Siuth Derbyshire inspectors got together and wrote jointly to the lpas.
Our outstanding concern relates to the matter of apportioning the HMA’s requirement between the three Local Authorities. The Authorities have agreed that Derby City’s contribution is capacity-capped. The reasoning behind this is apparent, but the apportionment between Amber Valley and South Derbyshire of the remaining housing is more difficult to understand. Whilst all Authorities have indicated their support for the planned distribution, the justification for the agreed numbers is not clear. No evidence has been provided to show whether any alternative distributions were considered formally, or that sustainability appraisal to justify the selected apportionment between the Authorities was undertaken.
However, in view of the assurance offered by the Authorities that they are prepared to co-operate in meeting the full OAN, we now advise the Councils to re-examine their planned apportionments of OAN and carry out a fresh joint sustainability appraisal of this matter.
Now LPAs in areas where there is an underbounded and ‘capacity capped’ city (seemingly 1/4 of England) will be very confused that senior inspectors in Warwickshire and Derbyshire have come to precisely the opposite point on this critical procedural and legal point.
Now some pragmatism is needed, after Amber Valley’s delay Greater Derby plans are now on the same timetable. In Warwickshire they are not. In Coventrys case it is not underbounded and its plan agreed for submission last week proposes major Green Belt loss, that is not such an issue for Derby City as the Green Belt sityes are mosty in adjoining authorities.
Ok lets go back to the regs. Reg 12.
‘reasonable alternatives taking into account the objectives and the geographical scope of the plan or programme.’
The underlined text is taken straight from the EU advice note.
One for DCLG to get PAS to bang PINS heads together.
My pennethworth – whilst reg 12 requires alternatives to be alternatives for that LPA only those alternatives may arise out of requirements of a joint DTC SHMA evidence process.
Example City A covers a HMA together with Districts B and C. City A has overspill need for 3,000 dwellings, which reasonable alternatives are either a site in District B or District C.
Step one – assess OAN – which after Hunstan is not capacity constrained.
Step two – under DTC consider options where it should go
Step three – under reg 12 consider whether or not it affects the reg 12 requirement for assessing reasonable alternatives within that authority.
So the reasonable alternatives for District B are own need and own need + 3,000, and the same for District C own need and own need + 3,000
The beauty of this pragmatic approach is that you don’t necessarily need a joint plan, its not legally required, and you can progress even if timescales are misaligned. There is a pragmatic benefit of jointly consulting on larger than local alternatives but this is not always practical, and if not as in North Warwickshire add a policy for early review or as in Stratford where the inspector prefers a policy on reserve sites as being more in tune with the NPPF. Of course the overspill from Greater London is of such a scale to test any pragmatic measure.