What Outweighs ‘Great Weight’ – A Primer

Although many complicated interpretations of the NPPF decision rules have been advanced over the years the courts have increased developed the ’tilted balance’ doctrine. over various complicated other approaches.

For example in the Suffolk Coastal/Cheshire East case the doctrine is

In the absence of relevant up to date development plan policies, the balance is tilted in favour of sustainable development and granting planning permission except where the benefits are ‘significantly and demonstrably’ outweighed by the adverse impacts or where specific policies in the NPPF indicate otherwise.

This is underlined by two instances where the NPPF uses the term ‘Great Weight’ no less than 6 times, when their is Great Weight  on one side of the scale and not yours you cant usually win – simple.

Appeals often focus on two environmentally protective Great Weights, AONB and Heritage Assets.  Even where the harm is less than substantial harm to an heritage asset which might itself not be of the highest  category then recent appeals, especially recent SoS appeals, suggest they will lose.

A good example is an SoS appeal decision today on Chiswick Roundabout.

Overall, the Secretary of State disagrees with the Inspector at IR12.164, and finds that the moderate weight to be attached to the benefits of the appeal scheme in terms of housing provision, workspace provision and economic benefits, are not collectively  sufficient to outweigh the great weight attached to the identified ‘less than substantial’ harm to the significance of the above heritage assets. He considers that the balancing
exercise under paragraph 196 of the Framework is therefore not favourable to the proposal

In other words a single building by itself is unlikely to outeigh Great Weight.

Hang on though that isnt government policy.

support the development of windfall sites through their policies and decisions – giving great weight to the benefits of using suitable sites within existing settlements for homes; (NPPF para. 68C)

Windfall sites are by nature mostly small and scattered.  Their public benefits come from their cumulative public benefits rather than their individual ones, in achieving urban intensification.  This presumably was what this NPPF section was getting at.  Why therefore was it not referred to once i the inspectors no SoS letters, why did they put their finger on the balance?


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