Whining Sevenoaks throws its Local Plan Toys out of the Pram

After conspiring to cooperate to not meet need does this come as any surprise?  This fake anger is just because they were caught out.  The legal test is clear.  The inspector had no alternative.

Sevenoaks Times

SEVENOAKS District Council [SDC] has ‘expressed serious concerns’ about the impartiality of the government’s Planning Inspector after she sent back its draft Local Plan.

Council leader Peter Fleming pledged to ‘stand up’ to the ‘huge abuse’ of the process by the Inspector, Karen Baker, and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Ms Baker wrote to SDC calling on it to withdraw the plan because it had failed in its ‘duty to co-operate’ with other councils such as Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge & Malling to find sites for new homes.

Sevenoaks had defied the government’s quota for housing of 11,312 homes by the year 2035, saying it would only provide 9,410 – almost 2,000 fewer than they have been told to build.

It argued that it could not fulfil the target because 93 per cent of the district is wihin the Green Belt – which can only be used in ‘exceptional circumstances.’

After six months perusing the document, Ms Baker said: “My main concern relates to the lack of constructive engagement with neighbouring authorities to resolve the issue of unmet housing need.”

Among several other problem areas she also criticised the ‘assessment of the Green Belt’.

SDC has countered by saying: “Evidence submitted to the Inspector clearly demonstrates the council had worked closely with its eight neighbouring councils since 2015 when it began the new Plan.

“In April, the council met with the Government’s Planning Advisory Service to discuss its neighbours’ ability to assist with unmet housing need. The meeting confirmed neighbouring authorities could not help.

“Before submitting the plan, the council also sought the opinion of a QC and industry experts, including former senior Planning Inspectors, who also advised the council’s approach was sound.”

Ms Baker had noted that the other authorities were not formally contacted ‘until just before the Local Plan was submitted’.

SDC Leader Peter Fleming said: “It is clear to me the way this has been handled calls into question the integrity of the whole plan-making system in this country.

“The inspector had our submission for six months and asked over 500 questions.

“Had there been a fundamental problem, I would have expected the examination not to have gone ahead from the start.

“As a Council we decided early on that we would follow an evidence-led approach, not prejudging any site and going where our plan-making policy and the evidence took us.

“To call into question an evidence-led approach comes to the root of our concerns with the actions of the Inspector.

“If we are not to follow the evidence to make our plan then the Government may just as well dictate how many homes an area should have and then pick sites.

“We need to put an end to the thinly veiled charade that local plans are in any way locally led.

He added: “But the most damning comment has to be left for the Inspector’s approach, to publish her brief note before allowing the council to either see her full reasoning or have a chance to respond.

“This suggests her mind is far from open and she and her masters have made their minds up.”

Cllr Julia Thornton, Cabinet Member for Development and Conservation, said: “We received more than 235,000 comments and residents told us loud and clear, they wanted us to continue to protect the district while providing new homes and infrastructure for the future.

“Taking the Local Plan off the table puts at risk the new infrastructure, including the schools, medical and leisure facilities, we really need.”

The Duty to Cooperate in Kent – Not a Duty to Agree to Disagree

A duty to cooperate meeting in Kent


Excuse me my neighbouring planning authority we have lots of green belt and AONB, can you take some of my unmet housing need?

No we have lots of green belt and/or AONB, by the way can you take some of our unmet housing need?


It goes on like this all around the table

The Duty to Cooperate is not a duty to agree to disagree.  The notes presented by Sevenoaks simply shows the lack of a positive process to cooperate to meeti ng housing need, both under the old NPPF (under which the plan was examined) and the new, both in terms of legal process and the DTC soundness test.  The inspector was 100% right.

Remember the legal test ‘to engage constructively, actively and on an ongoing basis to maximise the effectiveness of Local and Marine Plan preparation in the context of strategic cross boundary matters.”

Kent needs to get its act together.  The focussing of major growth areas on the rail line to Ashford is a good strategy, but only if you upgrade the rail line.

Appeal Court dismisses ‘unmet need from Woking’ Challenge to Local Plan

Cornerstone Barristers

In a judgment handed down on 31 October 2019, the Court of Appeal dismissed conjoined Local Plan challenges brought by POW Campaign Limited and CPRE Surrey to the adoption of Waverley Borough Council’s Local Plan.

The decision will be of interest to those involved in the assessment of Objectively Assessed Need within the Local Plan process, and more widely to those considering the standard of reasons required in such decisions.

The principal challenge

The Local Plan challenges focussed on the Local Plan Inspector’s approach to unmet housing need within the Housing Market Area when assessing Waverley’s OAN. The Examining Inspector had assessed that Waverley’s OAN should include 50% of Woking’s unmet need (83dpa), calculating that level of need from Woking’s Core Strategy 2012 and the need assessed in the SHMA 2015.

POW and CPRE had argued that this approach was legally flawed given (inter alia) that the Inspector had accepted that the starting point for assessing Waverley’s OAN should be lower based on the 2014 household projections, whereas the SHMA 2015 was based on the 2012 projections, and that no similar adjustment had been made when calculating Woking’s unmet need. It was also argued that the allocation of 50% of Woking’s unmet need to Waverley was arbitrary and inadequately reasoned.

Key principles

Lindblom LJ (with whom the other members of the court agreed) dismissed the challenges. At [35] the court set out 5 key principles emerging from the caselaw which were to be applied in the local plan context:

(1) The court will not revisit the merits of the process, the s.78 cases are equally applicable to the local plan context in that regard

(2)&(3) whilst the correct construction of policy is for the court, those policy statements are not equivalent to statements of legal principle. The relevant policy was not framed in mandatory or inflexible style, and no single methodology or level of precision to the calculation of housing numbers is prescribed. There may be no single “right answer”

(4) The exercise was one of evaluation, with a broad scope for reasonable planning judgment. The degree of accuracy required was itself a matter of judgment. The court would not be tempted into an assessment of the evidence; which involves a series of planning judgments

(5) Perhaps most importantly, arguments contending what a decision-maker “should”, “could” or “might” have done in assessing housing need are unlikely to prevail.

The court applied those principles, noting the following key features. The Inspector was not carrying out the Woking Local Plan examination. The choice of relevant data and projections, and their use, were matters of planning judgment. It was outside the Inspector’s remit for him to recalculate Woking’s OAN [59].

The Inspector was seeking to establish the OAN for Waverley for its Local Plan to be sound, which was a significantly different exercise. Updating Woking’s OAN was not a simple exercise of recalculation in line with the 2014 projections and would have had to have regard to the employment growth analysis on which it was partly based. The Inspector’s assessment fell comfortably within the scope of a reasonable planning judgement, given (inter alia) that Waverley is undoubtedly less constrained than both Woking and Guildford in terms of its Green Belt.

Secondary grounds

On the secondary points of appeal, the court made further findings of general interest. The Inspector was not required to call for more information to resolve the housing issue. The Inspector was entitled to deal with the uncertainties in the evidence base as he had. There was no obligation on the Inspector to recommend an early review of the plan. As for the reasons challenge and the standard of reasoning required, the court confirmed that the Porter approach applies [71]. Generally speaking, the reasons in an examination report may be more succinct that those given in a s.78 appeal [74]. On the crucial point, the Inspector’s reasons were clear, adequate and intelligible. He was only required to set out the main parts of his assessment and the essential planning judgments in it [75].

Wayne Beglan and Asitha Ranatunga appeared for Waverley Borough Council in the Court of Appeal and the High Court.

Clare Parry appeared for the Secretary of State in the High Court.

Wayne and Robert Williams appeared for Waverley Borough Council at the Local Plan examination.

Panel – London Strategic Green Belt Review “‘inevitable”

Panel Report

453.There have been a number of calls for a review of the Green Belt in London to
be carried out. This matter needs to be considered in the light of our earlier
findings that capacity within London is insufficient to meet the identified
annual need for housing and the potential shortfall of industrial land in the
medium to longer term. We take a review to mean examining all land within
the Green Belt to ascertain whether and to what extent it meets the Green
Belt purposes defined in the NPPF and also to take into account any potential
to promote sustainable patterns of development in line with the 2019 NPPF.
This, in turn, might identify possible locations for growth and so lead to an
assessment of whether exceptional circumstances might exist to justify the
release of Green Belt land.
454.Different approaches to doing a Green Belt review have been canvassed
ranging from requiring boroughs to undertake them based on assessment
criteria devised by the Mayor, to the Mayor undertaking that work himself and
to the identification of specific growth areas or corridors. Whilst the Green
Belt occupies 22% of the land area of the capital it is only some 7% of the
entire Metropolitan Green Belt which stretches across the wider South East.
Any exercise should consequently take account of cross-boundary issues
relating to the coherence and durability of the Green Belt on the periphery of
the capital as well as across London itself. Therefore, a key part of an
effective review in London is likely to involve joint working and positive
engagement with adjoining authorities and boroughs.
455.Conflicting evidence has been provided about the extent of urban brownfield
land and brownfield or other land within the Green Belt that might be suitable
for sustainable development. The Plan itself observes that some Green Belt
land is derelict and unsightly and does not provide significant benefits. In any
event it is implausible to insist that the Green Belt is entirely sacrosanct
without having considered what it comprises and the impact that it has on
wider strategic objectives. Furthermore, the NPPF does not entirely rule out
changes to Green Belt boundaries although exceptional circumstances are
required to justify this.
456.The Mayor argues that however it is done such a review would take some time
to complete. A commitment to undertake one could nevertheless be contained
within the Plan. Indeed, from our perspective it would be a logical step to do
this as part of on-going future plan preparation and to assess, as an option,
whether it would be reasonable to release Green Belt land in order to close the
London Plan Examination in Public: Panel Report October 2019
gap between housing need and supply in London. This is especially given the
difficulty of accommodating growth in the wider South East. There is also a
need to consider medium to longer term industrial needs.
457.Therefore from the evidence we heard the inescapable conclusion is that if
London’s development needs are to be met in future then a review of the
Green Belt should be undertaken to at least establish any potential for
sustainable development. Therefore we recommend that this Plan include a
commitment to a Green Belt review [PR35]. This would best be done as part
of the next London Plan. Given its strategic nature and to ensure consistency
the review should be led by the Mayor and should involve joint working with
authorities around the administrative boundary as well as the boroughs. This
would form the basis for the Mayor to consider Green Belt release as a means
to deliver housing and industrial development that cannot be accommodated
in the existing built up area or in adjoining areas.
458.Policy G2 is not consistent with national policy. In particular, it states that
development proposals that would cause harm to the Green Belt should be
refused and makes no reference to very special circumstances. Similarly, the
extension of the Green Belt should only be undertaken in exceptional
circumstances as set out at paragraph 83 of the NPPF. Finally, the blanket
provision that de-designation will not be supported also ignores the NPPF
reference to altering boundaries in exceptional circumstances through the
preparation or review of local plans.
459.The Mayor maintains that the policy would not preclude limited Green Belt
release in exceptional circumstances but that is not what the policy says.
Moreover, any borough proposing this would be likely to encounter general
conformity issues. The wholescale opposition to the loss of Green Belt land is
advocated on the basis that it should be unnecessary as development needs
can be met on brownfield land without recourse to the Green Belt. But that is
not the case and national policy is not couched in this way. London’s Green
Belt is not obviously different to that encircling other major cities. Any
borough proposing Green Belt release would have to justify this at
examination taking account of the provisions of paragraph 137 of the 2019
NPPF. This expects all other reasonable options to have been examined
including discussions with neighbouring authorities.
460.Furthermore, given our conclusions about the ability to deliver housing and
industrial development within London it would be wrong to unilaterally rule out
changes to the Green Belt. That is not to say that they should be supported
as a matter of course because the national policy provisions outlined above
should apply. As well as the five purposes in national policy there are also
other beneficial functions that Green Belt land serves as highlighted in
paragraph 8.2.1. But it should be left as an option to provide boroughs some
flexibility in deciding how best to meet their development needs, including
those specifically identified in the Plan.
461.The policy also fails to clarify that support for multi-functional uses does not
override the presumption against inappropriate development and this should
be remedied. We therefore recommend that policy G2 be adjusted so that it is
consistent with national policy [PR36].

PR35 Policy G2 –
Add text to refer to the Mayor leading a strategic and comprehensive review of the Green Belt in London as part of the next review of the London Plan and to indicate the means by which this is to be undertaken.
PR36 Policy G2 Modify policy G2 as follows:
“A The Green Belt should be protected from inappropriate development:
1) development proposals that would harm the Green Belt should be refused except where very special circumstances exist;
2) subject to national planning policy tests the enhancement of the Green Belt to provide appropriate multi-functional beneficial uses for Londoners should be supported.
B Exceptional circumstances are required to justify either the extension or de-designation of the Green Belt through the preparation or review of a local plan.

Castle Point has óne last chance’over local plan tonight

South Essex Echo

PLANS for where 5,000 new homes will be built could be taken out of local control if sites are not agreed this month.

Castle Point Council has one last chance to approve its local plans and designate sites around the borough for new homes.

If councillors again reject the local plan it is likely the Government will make the decision instead without the advantage of local knowledge.

A meeting will be held on Tuesday, October 22 to give the councillors the chance to agree on housing sites for the next 15 years.

The other risk is that without a plan developers have a better case to win planning appeals, leaving less power for local councillors to turn down plans.

Mr Lamb said: “We are taking the process forward following the local plan from last year.

“It did not get through and we have got to have a local plan or there will be speculative development, which will see developers taking more control, and we don’t want that.

“If agreed there’s a process that will take around 18 months before we can adopt the plan, it will go to the council on October 22, then if it’s passed it will go to consultation, then out to inspection and then back to the council.

“If we have our own plan it will mean our councillors, residents and pressure groups have more input.

“We are looking at a number of sites across the borough and it will be about 342 new homes being built each year.

“We have to provide new homes for people who need them in our borough.”

Mr Smith said he believes this plan is the best option for the borough and hopes the councillors give it their backing at the meeting.

He said if the council agrees the plan it will give them greater control over the future.

The Government has already threatened to take over if the authority continues to fail in providing a viable plan.

Canvey Independence Party leader, councillor Dave Blackwell, suggested that relinquishing control of the local plan to the Government may be the only way that Canvey’s overcrowding fears could be properly addressed with a wider approach.

On the South Oxfordshire Holding Direction – What does it mean

Was hoping last week to blog on the South Oxfordshire Local Plan direction however a <1k speed in the desert location where I am working blocked me.

Following South Oxfordshire District Council Cabinet’s decision on 3 October to recommend withdrawing the emerging South Oxfordshire Local Plan (“the Plan”), I am considering whether to give a direction to South Oxfordshire District Council in relation to the Plan under section 21 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (“the 2004 Act”).
The government remains committed to making sure every community has an up-to-date and sufficiently ambitious Local Plan. Withdrawing the Plan at this stage is instead likely to create uncertainty and expose communities to speculative planning applications.
Therefore, in exercise of the powers under section 21A of the 2004 Act (inserted by section 145(5) of the Housing and Planning Act 2016), I hereby direct South Oxfordshire District Council not to take any step in connection with the adoption of the Plan, while I consider the matter further. This direction will remain in force until I withdraw it or give a direction under section 21 of the 2004 Act in relation to the Plan.
I would like to work constructively with you to ensure that South Oxfordshire is able to deliver the high-quality homes and infrastructure required to support jobs and growth in the local community. As I set out in my letter to you on 26 August 2019, progressing the Plan is an essential step to delivering the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal. I have therefore asked my officials to get in touch with your officers to discuss next steps and will keep you updated
while I consider this matter further.

A local little bird told me that the local administration is taking it as a sign that the government wants to negotiation on its target, else otherwise why didnt it just step in.  They couldn’t be more wrong.

The SOS could intervene under section 21 of the act at any time (the kind of intervention long mooted at Castlepoint) however the SOS was faced with the imminent withdrawal of the current highly advanced (in process) local plan forcing him go back to stage 1.

Of course the result is the process is now frozen.  Leading SODC to (with a straight face) claim the government is holding up the local plan (the same local plan they want to scrap).

IF the SOS took over the local plan dont expect them to revise down the governments own OAN number.  What is more now they have delayed submission past the date of the completion of the London Plan panel report the SOS needs to find an extra 13,000 ‘land contained ‘overspill houses per annum, across ROSE.  As ever SODC cllrs through pride and tunnel vision made the worst possible decision in terms of their concerns and impact on the local community.

This is now a test for Jenryck and Esther ‘Gobshite’ Mc Vey, will they have the balls to intervene here and in Castlepoint and Amber Valley.




‘Hoot to Adopt Local Plan’ Conservatives Protest as S Oxon Cabinet Votes to Junk Local Plan

Key Test if Mc Vey is All Gobshite and No Trousers

Oxford Mail

CONSERVATIVES and residents held a protest aside a busy roundabout to try to gather support for the adoption of South Oxfordshire District Council’s Local Plan.

Traffic built up on Broadway in Didcot and the occasional driver tooted their support as former council leader Jane Murphy and activists called on the authority to follow the plan on Thursday.

Later that evening, the council’s cabinet decided it would recommend to councillors that it dumps its controversial Local Plan and looks again at potential housing sites.

Vale of White Horse District Council has said it would open it up to speculative development.

Bill Service, a former SODC Tory councillor who lost his seat in May, said: “I don’t think the Liberals expected to take the council.

“They promise the earth and they said they were going to stop the houses in South Oxfordshire. But it worries me they haven’t got a plan B.

“We have always spoken the truth. There’s building coming whether we like it or not but let’s have it where we can control it.”

Didcot resident and mum-of-two Sam Slater said she must leave her home at 7.15am every morning to drop off her children at nursery and school to get to work at 8.30am.

She said there are traffic problems in ‘each access and access point in Didcot’ and that new infrastructure is needed to improve the town’s highways.

Councillors have said congestion would be reduced with £218m of Housing Infrastructure Fund money that the government has agreed for Didcot.

Resident Alan Woodley said his family can trace roots in the town back to 1450.

He said: “I am trying to run businesses. I have got several businesses in town and getting in and out of [Didcot] is just a nightmare. We have taken so many houses and we need better infrastructure.”

In a letter, sent on Thursday, Vale council leader Emily Smith warned that her authority faces a ‘very real and immediate risk’ to its five-year land supply if SODC ditches its Local Plan.

But following the decision taken by SODC’s cabinet, its leader Sue Cooper said: “We have considered the detailed matters relating to the Local Plan long and hard over the past few months and I’m pleased that we’re making a clear, decisive and strong recommendation to councillors.”

Mrs Cooper added: “In making this recommendation, my cabinet has sought to do the right thing, not the easy thing, and we will continue to work positively and constructively in the best interests of all South Oxfordshire residents while also tacking the climate emergency, which we have an enormous responsibility to address.”

SODC will decide whether to accept the cabinet’s recommendation next Thursday.

McVey Adopts Taxpayers Alliance Policy on Green Belt – Removing its Strategic Function


People should be able to vote on whether to build on the green belt in their local areas, a housing minister has said.

Esther McVey MP, Minister of State for Housing and Development, told Conservative Party Conference that the protected land could be built on if local communities voted for it.

She told an event hosted by the Tax Payers’ Alliance: “I would put it to the local community and ask them whether they think their green belt is car parks and whether it should be classed as green belt at all. Then we can reclassify and build on it.

“I don’t believe in statist top down policy, I believe in going from the ground up”.

This idea appears to be a departure from her department’s green belt policy….

This was Taxpayers Alliance Policy since 2017.  I cant see how a Green Belt composed only through l;ocal mandates is compatible with the 1955 principle of a national policy of preventing urban sprawl.  A wholly bottom up Green Belt is licensened Nimbyism.  The CPRE should be appalled.
How can a ‘bottom up’ Green Belt be compatible with exceptional circumstances deletions in Local Plans where housing is for a STRATEGIC purpose.  Does Mc Vey even know the meaning of the word strategic?
Of course if it were ‘ca parks’ its a brownfield site in the Green Belt and can be built on already..

Isle of Wight to Challenge Government Over Housing Numbers (guess who will win)

Islnd Echoe  So Ventor Parish Council are world experts on demography are they – I never knew

Government-driven housing targets, which could see almost 10,000 new homes built on the Island over the next 15 years, look set to be challenged by the Isle of Wight Council.

The authority intends to prepare an evidence-based case that demonstrates the real housing needs of the Island.

The move comes in direct response to comments and concerns raised by residents in respect to housing numbers contained in the draft Island Planning Strategy – or Local Plan. Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely has also been fighting for a reconsideration of the target and has held a number of meetings with residents across the Island.

Using a new common formula set down by government for councils to “objectively assess housing need”, the plan proposed an annual housing target for the Island of 641 homes.

Council leader Dave Stewart said the authority had listened to Islanders’ concerns and would now seek to put forward its own calculation based on fact, rather than a formula. As part of that, he said he would work closely with Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely to argue the Island’s unique circumstances and what could realistically be achieved in terms of housing delivery.