Key Questions for Effective Joint Plan Working – the South Essex example

With the Housing White paper and now the NPPF setting down the minimum plan making requirement for ‘strategic policies’ rather than ‘ local plan’ there has been a flurry of activity towards joint working – good oh.  Examples include South Essex and South West Herts.

However looking at the key decisions on some of the cases it does seem as much of an example of decisions ‘deferred’ rather than ‘decided’ in terms of the NPPF.

South Essex is a good example with intervention in one case and special measures another.

Looking at the key decision however a number of key issues remains

  1.  Will the joint strategic plan be statutory?  Not clear in the recommendation – only referred to in the supporting text.  If a statutory plan there needs to be an LDS amendment etc.  It is possible to agree joint strategic policies through individual examinations – as per North Essex, though this is very costly and the example here would not be repeated by others studying the lack of economies of scale.
  2. What are the governance arrangements? – a joint committee avoids the deadlock of requiring unanimity.
  3. Will the Statement of Common Ground agree the minimum requirements for the new effectiveness test in the draft NPP para 36.  Will strategic priorities be ‘dealt with rather than deferred’ and include the ‘strategic pattern and form’ of development’.

A statement of common ground is more than a ‘memorandum of understanding’ which planning inspectors often see as an agreement to try to agree – as this one is.  A Statement of common ground includes what has been agreed and what has not, so they will evolve over time as joint plans progress.  This is just a motherhood statement – typical of those drafted by Chief Executives.    South Essex is just at its first stage – but it clearly needs to set out what it expects to try to agree to agree anything at all.

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