Tensions In Spotlight As Planning Debate Rumbles On

‘Conflicting Interpretations’ On NPPF Regulations

27.03.2013

By Rob Dixon

The continuing debate about the planning system has demonstrated the difficult relationship which exists between pushing forward with new development but also maintaining focus on necessary conservation, according to legal experts at Irwin Mitchell.
 
Figures obtained by the Daily Telegraph, as part of its continuing campaign related to the planning system, revealed that the construction of 25,000 extra homes have been given approval since the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) last year.
 
Suggestions have emerged that the full introduction of the NPPF this week will lead to a further increase in the coming months, a forecast which has been criticised by bodies including the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
 
The campaign organisation recently published analysis of the NPPF and warned that the system could lead to the launch of ‘damaging schemes in the wrong locations’.
 
Commenting on the ongoing debate surrounding this issue, Justin Neal, a solicitor and expert in planning and environment in Irwin Mitchell’s Public Law team, said concerns about the regulations in place highlight perfectly how the tensions between development and conservation are more prominent than ever.
 
He outlined: “The interpretation of the term sustainable development will be key in the decision making process – both developers and objectors are being advised to consider a holistic definition of sustainable development as set out in the NPPF, rather than using certain phrases or comments in the policy in isolation.
 
“It is planning inspectors, the Secretary of State, and the courts who will inform our interpretation of the term over the coming months.
 
“Where councils have not worked to develop their local plans, there will be increased scope for development. However, any development which does take place should still be subject to scrutiny in terms of its effect on habitat and environmental impact. Where there are disputes between developers and campaigners, good legal advice will be essential.”
 
Oliver Martin, a Partner at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office, said: “The reference to 25,000 extra homes being granted planning permission is misleading, as one needs to bear in mind that permissions for residential development have reduced significantly in previous years as a result of the uncertainty created by the ‘abolition’ of the regional spatial strategies and the faltering housing market.
 
“There are many councils who are not meeting their targets and delivering the required housing in their areas. The failure of councils in not having up-to-date local plans and the requirement for a five-year housing land supply is not a new issue, although it is more pronounced under the NPPF.
 
“Under the NPPF, the onus is firmly on local authorities to ensure their local plans are up to date and compliant.
 
“Our planning system is plan-led and the Government is seeking to ensure that local plans are in place. While this process is ongoing, there will undoubtedly be more decisions being made ‘off-plan’ and on appeal, especially at a time when the Government has placed housing growth so high up on its political agenda.”

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