Council challenges planning inspector decision affecting strategic planning

Implications for the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan? You know, the one being delayed until after the next council elections …. for some reason …

“South Gloucestershire Council is to bring a legal challenge over a planning inspector’s decision to grant planning permission for a 350-home development in Thornbury.

The proposed Cleve Park scheme would also include a 70-unit elderly care facility, associated open space, community and commercial facilities, and infrastructure. The planning application was made by Welbeck Strategic Land LLP.

The local authority said it had “carefully considered” the Inspector’s decision and would be issuing legal proceedings challenging it.

South Gloucestershire added that it had written to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government James Brokenshire, “requesting that he exercises his powers to recover the planning appeals relating to developments in Charfield and another in Thornbury from the Planning Inspectors, and make the decisions himself”.

These requests relate to two applications, one for outline planning permission for the erection of 121 homes and a retail outlet on land off Wotton Road in Charfield (Barratt Homes, Bristol), and also the appeal relating to land south of Gloucester Road, Thornbury (Bovis Homes Ltd), which seeks outline consent for the demolition of existing agricultural shed buildings and residential development of up to 370 homes, a flexible use building, public open space, accesses onto Gloucester Road and associated infrastructure.

The council said that it considered that these appeals, if granted, would undermine the Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) process and its impact upon the residents and communities of South Gloucestershire.

Cllr Toby Savage, Leader of South Gloucestershire Council, said: “Enough is enough. I am determined to see the council take a robust approach to challenging unsustainable development across the district. Where we have taken difficult decisions to proactively and positively plan for future housing and jobs growth, we should not have decisions from the Planning Inspectorate which undermines this work as it only stores up economic, social and environmental problems for the future.”

Cllr Colin Hunt, Cabinet Member for Planning at the council, said: “In South Gloucestershire we are trying to be plan led with our decisions on planning applications. While we appreciate that we have a shortfall on our five year land supply, nonetheless we want decisions to reflect that we have a solid plan that was prepared in consultation with the public.”

Devon and Somerset – a new Klondike gold rush?

The LEP housing numbers, anticipating 50,000 new households in Devon, are almost certainly driven in part by the heroic assumptions about the local economy, as Owl has pointed out many times.

As we know, the LEP assumption is 4% growth per annum for the next 18 years. Such a sustained economic boom would invoke a ‘Klondike’ style immigration rush into Devon and Somerset, as the economies of all of the rest of the western world failed to compete with us at that level.

East Devon’s current Local Plan is based upon an anticipated annual UK economic growth rate of 3% from 2007, which has turned out to be just over 1%.

This, of course, is why many of our employment sites are dormant (and one of the many reasons why we do not need a new site in Sidford), and all our town centres are struggling – there simply isn’t demand.

Even if economic growth was to average 3% growth from now until the end of the Plan period, which looks incredibly optimistic, we would still have 33% more employment land than we need, according to East Devon’s own numbers.

The LEP’s projections have been laughed at by everyone – especially, Owl gathers, in Whitehall.

But they feed into a whole raft of housing and economic projections, that will ultimately emerge as policy around the region.

What assumption will be used for the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP) projections, Owl wonders? Now delayed until after the next local council elections in 2019?

Will the GESP team dare to condemn the LEP numbers, or will they adopt them, even when they must know they are nonsense?

What might happen if those without vested interests in the growth of expensive housing in the area were for once denied a say due to conflict of interest?

And where are the signs of the revisions of our Local Plan, based on current realities, that are required every 5 years?

Government non-expert “independent” expert refuses to ban combustible cladding used in Grenfell Tower

“Dame Judith Hackitt proved yesterday that appointing ‘independent’ experts is no guarantee that difficult policy areas can be somehow magically be set free from politics. She started off badly yesterday and it was downhill all the way afterwards. On the Today programme she struggled to explain why her review had failed to recommend an outright ban on combustible cladding. That was followed by an almost comical U-turn, saying that perhaps she should have recommended a ban. Then Housing Secretary James Brokenshire announced he would consult on a ban. It was not a coincidence that the panicked responses came after David Lammy, who has a moral authority ministers cannot ignore these days, declared the review a ‘whitewash’.

But things looked even worse later, when she told reporters “I am not an expert on Grenfell” and “has not looked into the details” of the fire that killed 71 people. With a Whitehallese worthy of Sir Humphrey Appleby, she declared her review was instead “triggered by the discovery that there were many other buildings that were not safe”. That’s true, but to say also that “my review was not triggered by the tragedy at Grenfell” was just plain daft.

On Question Time last night housing minister Dominic Raab said: “I’m sorry it’s taken so long” [to respond to Grenfell]. Meanwhile, a new report says four million homes are needed to solve the UK’s ‘epic’ housing crisis. Brokenshire needs to get a handle on his new brief rather quickly.”

Source: Huffington Post

Civic Voice submission on new planning rules


“Civic Voice – the authoritative voice of the civic movement – has submitted its final response to the draft National Planning Policy Framework consultation. The response is available here:

Ian Harvey, Executive Director said: “If the report in Planning Magazine over the weekend is true and the Government’s Chief Planner did confirm that the Government has received over 27,000 responses to the draft consultation, we believe that this shows the breadth of feeling across the country about the importance of our planning system.”

Responding to the draft NPPF, Civic Voice is calling for:

1. Given our membership and reach nationwide, we are concerned by the London and South East-centric nature of the NPPF; a greater level of ambition for economic development to is vital to address the viability challenges in some parts of the country.

2. The draft NPPF says much about the importance of design, however, it is our fear that as drafted, high quality design could be seen as a ‘nice to have’ but ‘easy to ignore’ rather than as an essential dimension of good planning.

3. Civic Voice supports the emphasis on early and meaningful engagement with communities within the draft NPPF and we would welcome working with MCHLG to develop the accompanying Planning Practice Guidance on this.

Harvey added: “We agree with the Government that finding a solution to the housing crisis is essential and we really hope that this was not a tokenistic consultation. We must ask, if the Government intends to publish the final document before the end of July, can it realistically be expected to review the thousands of responses comprehensively within a matter of weeks? We look forward to seeing the final document when it is released as it is important that the Government gets this right, because the consequences of getting it wrong will be felt for many years to come.”

Civic Voice President, Griff Rhys Jones finished by saying: “Whilst the Government wants to see the ‘right homes in the right places’, if it doesn’t get this right, it is very likely to end up with the ‘wrong homes in the wrong places. We hope they listen to the voices of communities across England.”

“Will the Tories’ starter homes initiative ever get off the ground?”

“Q Is anything ever likely to come of the starter homes initiative? It was launched amid much fanfare by George Osborne towards the end of 2014 but there has been little news since, beyond a few stories regarding funding concerns.

Meanwhile, the starter homes newsletter, which was getting increasingly infrequent and was only ever a series of adverts for developments (none of which contained starter homes) seems to have dried up, and the dedicated starter homes website simply links back to a generic new homes website, as it did when it was launched.

I had been holding off buying a house as the promised minimum discount of 20% sounds worth waiting for, but I’m beginning to question whether it was only ever a cynical attempt to woo millennial voters, to be abandoned at the first opportunity.

A Given the dearth of news about the starter homes scheme, it’s tempting to think that it has been quietly shelved – not least because it was an initiative announced when the Tories were in coalition with the Lib Dems.

But in fact, shortly after the current government came to power, it was announced that the original target of 100,000 new starter homes to be built by 2020 would be doubled. So potentially 200,000 first-time buyers aged between 23 and 40 with a household income of £80,000 or less (£90,000 in London) will be able to buy new-build properties at a discount of at least 20% where the discounted price is less than £450,000 in London but £250,000 everywhere else in England. The starter homes will generally be built on underused or unviable brownfield land previously used for commercial or industrial purposes.

Those first-time buyers shouldn’t hold their breath, however, as no starter homes have yet been completed. And at the beginning of last year only 71 sites across England had received grants from the Starter Home Land Fund to enable local authorities to acquire and/or prepare suitable land for starter home developments. So a lot depends on where you live if you want to take advantage of the scheme. First-time buyers in Burnley won’t have to wait much longer as, in partnership with Barnfield Investment Properties, Burnley council started work on the first phase of residential apartments back in February 2017.

If you don’t happen to live in Burnley, finding out about starter home developments in your local area is hard and the new homes website you mention is no help at all. The alternative to waiting for a discounted starter home would be to look into the help-to-buy scheme where you get a loan of up to 20% from government towards the purchase of a new-build property.”

Parish council successfully overturns officer “delegated authority” decision

“A parish council recently enjoyed success in a legal challenge over a purported exercise of delegated authority. Meyric Lewis explains how.

Newton Longville Parish Council has secured a quashing order by consent in their judicial review challenge to a grant of planning permission by Aylesbury Vale District Council under purported exercise of delegated authority.

District Council members resolved to grant planning permission for residential development “delegated to officers… subject to such conditions as are considered appropriate and to include a condition requiring that a reserved matters application be made within 18 months of the date of permission and that any permission arising from that application be implemented within 18 months”.

In exercising their delegated authority, officers took the view that there was insufficient justification for shortening the period for applying for reserved matters and for requiring implementation within 18 months. But that matter was neither raised with members nor addressed in the delegated report published by the Council.

In committee, members had wished to impose these short timeframes because they were concerned about the length of time that the site had remained undeveloped notwithstanding the existence of planning permission granted in 2007 and then renewed in 2011 and so they wished to encourage the building out of the site more swiftly than if longer timeframes were allowed.

Permission to apply for judicial review was granted by the High Court on the ground that the decision went beyond the terms of the delegated authority because it conflicted with the confined terms of the members’ resolution.

Permission was also granted on a ground concerning the related section 106 agreement and in respect of officers’ failure to provide adequate reasons, as required by under reg. 7 of the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014, in that they did not address the matters relied on as justifying a departure from the terms of the members’ resolution in the delegated report.

The District Council and Interested Party have now signed a consent order submitting to judgment on all grounds.

Significant points to note on the case are that:

The parish council’s grounds distinguished Ouseley J’s decision on implied delegated authority in R (Couves) v. Gravesham BC [2015] EWHC 504 (Admin) because of the specific requirements as to time frames stipulated by members, see Couves at 47

It highlights the importance of officers going back to the terms of any resolution delegating authority to them and ensuring that their proposed action complies with its terms.

Developers and potential challengers will be astute to perform the exercise under (2) to see if a challenge can be mounted.

So there are practical consequences for officers, similar to when they receive an engrossment of a section 106, that they check the terms of what was resolved/agreed before issuing a formal grant of permission.”