Mike Kiely POS – We Need to Faff About the #GreenBelt

Mike Kiely Chair of POS at the National Planning Summit

POS was “not saying that there is a need to review the green belt”.

He said: “You have to make those decisions that exist in each particular area but I think the question will arise and will have to be addressed at some stage and we need to do that properly and what we’re advocating is approaches that release green belt land in the right way, brings forward developments that have high levels of sustainability and enables the infrastructure that’s necessary to support that development to be properly funded”.

POS has also produced a discussion document titled “We need to talk about the Green Belt“.

This otherwise excellent paper could easily be called ‘Faffing about the Green Belt’ for not giving a straight answer to the question – Do LPAs need to review Green Belts?  Its the kind of faffing about and ‘on the one hand and the other’ double talk that gives Planners, rightly, a bad name.

The paper only goes astray in a few paragraphs but they make all the difference to the final outcome.

[Reviewing the Green Belt] …is no easy decision. It should only arise after all reasonable and acceptable efforts have been taken to maximise the amount of development within the urban area. …Similarly, it should also only arise after other options, such as the growth being accommodated in other areas in ways that do not result in unsustainable patterns of growth, have been fully explored.

In other words you should only look at one reasonable alternative after you have dismissed another reasonable alternative without having compared them.  What has this got to do with planning, rather it is a process or evidenced exhaustion and plan making prevarication?  How is this legally and procedurally defensible given the requirements  of the SEA directive to compare all reasonable alternatives at an early stage of plan making?  The POS paper seems to be repeating the ‘last resort’ doctrine which the courts rejected last year in IM Properties v Lichfield [2014] EWHC 2440 (Admin)

Planning authorities seven key legal constraints in putting forward their local plans and deciding whether or not to review the GB, oddly the paper faffs around so much talking about the pedagogical issues that it mentions none of them.

1.  The legal constraints and caselaw on what constitutes ‘exceptional circumstances’

2. The Duty to Coooperate – both legal and soundness tests and the overspill OAN  arising from footnote 9 (environmentally) constrained areas and OAN overspill from metropolitan areas

3. The SEA directive – and it seeming conflict with the DTC in the 2004 regulations

4. Soundness requirement regarding evidence – and potential conflict with the Boles doctrine that conducting  GB review can only be initiated by an LPA

5. Hunstan -OAN must be determined in a ‘policy off’ unconstrained mode

6.  The blurring of the issue by the New NPPG – allowing GB to be treated as a NPPF para.14 ‘contraint’ but not distinguishing between policy (which local plans can amend and can be challenged by evidence) and environmental (which local plans cannot) footnote 9 constraints

7.  The increasing caselaw and precedent on ‘valued landscapes’ and its relation to Green Belt Purposes in a GB review

Brandon Lewis faffs about the Grenn Belt – repeating like a parrot ‘exceptional circumstances, exceptional circumstances’ without giving a guiding hand through this seven test minefield.  Similarly POS please stop faffing about the Green Belt, at some point talking has to stop and planning has to begin and please help planners in that regard by providing a guidance note that addresses these issues and guides poor beleaguered planners through.

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