North Essex Inspector Creates A Large Hole – and Keeps Digging

The NEGC Inspector has written to the three authorities clarifying his initial findings  – such a long letter it arrives after two of the three authorities have decided to carry on with option 2 – further work on the Garden Communities.  Their legal advice was that option 3 – withdraw the plans would put them on the naughty step, and option 1 delete the garden communities from the part 1 plan would result in less than 10 years supply.

The letter concerns the legal practicalities of option 1, where the inspector recommended a two to three year delay in bringing forward a revised part 1 plan with new strategic sites.

The inspector dismisses the argument that in deleting Garden Communities a new SEA will be needed looking at the revised Garden Communities as a reasonable alternatives.  The inspector refers to the Dacorum case  Grand Union Investments v Dacorum Borough Council [2014] EWHC 1894  where a plan was found to have just less than 10 years supply so an inspector required to have  an early review.

This case is not on all fours with that case as their they did not propose removing 2-3 years of supply from their plans from deleting their largest sites from the plan, clearly something that would have a significant effect and should be SEAd – and no SEA has been carried out into the permanent loss of this 2-3 years supply.  The inspectors decision at Dacorum had no impact on the sites in the plan as proposed and SEAd, it was neutral in that regard, the inspector at NEGC was not nuetral.  The site promoters are up in arms, option 1 would end in the courts and the LPAs would carry the risk in that regard.  Sorry but I think in this case the PI has had bad legal advice, and the consensus view of the lawyers acting for the three authorities and the three site promoters disagree with them.

I dint think option 1 should have even been put forward, it is far too high risk and legally complicated putting a plan outside the bounds of the NPPF.

The inspector too has missed the irony.  Dacorum had less than 10 years supply because St Albans had opposed proposed to extend Hemel Hempsted to the East.  In the new era of cooperation that site is back in.  The short sited decision of the inspector would try to ‘defer’ instated of ‘dealt with’ a a big decision (to use the words of the NPPF).