Clarke the Local Plan Inspector- Why Greg Clarkes Hands may be Tied on the Maldon & N Somerset Local Plan Dispute

I had several emails on this during a period when I was coordinating three masterplanning teams in three countries on a scheme for over 250,000 homes to be ready in two months – so sorry.  But some thoughts.

The inspectors response to Maldon’s ‘its not a big deal’ letter is clear.   The policy is out of date and inadequate and delaying the plan would to deal with housing matters properly would not lead to appeal led development as planning permission on quickly released sites has now been granted.  It ios telling how slow release of sites in Maldon for travelers has been.

I am particularly scathing about Maldon attempting to put words in Keiths Holand’s Mouth – he did not say at the pre-visit it wasn’t a major issue- rather a plan without traveler provision would only be found sound where it was not a major issue.  In Maldon and all of Essex ot always has been a major issue.

Malson having written to the SOS to ask him to use his rarely used section 21 of the 2004 Act powers (only used once before in N Somerset and still not decided on).

Both the Maldon and N Somerset cases are likely to end in the courts and naturally the DCLG will be reluctant to intervene too often in legally protracted cases where the only choice under the act is to adopt or reject.

In both the N Somerset and Maldon cases the SoS will have to decide on some key issues fudged by himself, Boles and Lewis

-The Boles Doctrine on whether Green Belt allows you to treat it as a binding constraint

-The Liverpool or Sedgefield method (which I hope in N Somerset’s cases goes the Liverpool way as this was the case in S Glocs)

-On the equalities issues on dealing with travellers provision years after housing for teh settled community.

Sloughing off to travelers DPDs is surely untenable these days in light of the ECHR case Moore & Anor v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Ors [2015] EWHC 44 (Admin) of 21 January 2015 – let alone the Equalities Act.  But we will see.  I suspect Greg Clarke might just pass this hurdle if he stresses that the G&T DPD should be determined at the first possible opportunity and this should not set a precedent for postponing deciosions on G&T cases – if he doesnt hes latying himself wide open to JR and it would set a terrible precedent.

On the North Somerset issue the Council had agreed to up the housing numbers, implying a Green Belt Review – but then ‘undecided’ in the light of the pre-election Brandon Lewis guidance changes treating Green Belt as a ‘constraint’. Im surprised the SoS decided to take this one as it means making a local decision about GB boundaries which they are loathe to do.  Whats worse is what cant be provided in N Somerset must go to South Gloucestershire.






Is their any Doubt Now that Councils Can Neither Obejctively Assess or Measure Housing Need

The case is mounting

Richard Garlick in Planning

In our last issue (Planning, 5 June, p14), we reported research from consultancy Savills, which had found that 43 per cent of councils claiming a five-year land supply do not in fact have one.

In this edition, we examine new data from consultancy Indigo Planning (see News Analysis, p7), which has focused specifically on authorities in the South East. It found that, on average, planning authorities in the region overestimate the amount of housing land supply that they hold by a third of a year. Half of the authorities in the region do not have a five-year supply once the required “buffer” of additional provision is included, and past shortfalls factored in, it concluded.

The vast majority of local plans are held up through underestimating need. Now their is evidence – subject of course to argument over the subjectivities of NPPF terms – that around half overestimate their supply.

Im a great supporter of localism but their can be no doubt that when it comes to ‘objective’ assessment trusting LPAS on this is like trusting foxes to guard a henhouse.  As the single biggest blocker and complicator to UK planning it must be handed to truly independent and objective bodies.