Mar 14, 2012 17:11 GMT The presumption in favour of sustainable development will remain in the Government’s proposed National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The head of the civil service, Sir Bob Kerslake attending a British Property Federation (BPF) conference said that the presumption was an important part of Government policy. He was quoted on the out-law.com website saying: ...
Rochdale RethinkApr 23, 2012 16:49 BST
Now that the NPPF has been published and has come into force, alongside the Localism Act, Councils are trying to work out what it all means for their LDFs.
In Rochdale the judgement of an inspector at their EIP has led to their Core Strategy being withdrawn. There will be a growing number of Councils who will face judgment on the soundness of their LDFs and this will be such a strong test for the new planning system.
In Rochdale’s case, inspector Patrick Whitehead questioned the proposal to release around 50-55 hectares of green belt land in South Heywood for employment development and for 520 homes. He also raised concerns about plans for a new link road to junction 19 of the M62 to support employment development and stop traffic rat running through Heywood.
The Officer’s at Rochdale, obviously realising that in the light of his judgment the Core Strategy would be open to challenge, advised the safer route of withdrawal and reassessment.
The point here is that the Council chose to take this advice. Under the Localism Act a council need not heed the advice of the inspector if they feel their local judgment is somehow superior. But, they have to back that up with evidence. If a legal challenge were to result from a council ignoring an inspector’s judgment then the local authority concerned would find its case immeasurably weakened because the judge would have to decide whether the local decision made on presumably local grounds needed to fulfil planning policy tests or whether the test of soundness in the context of an EIP had precedence. The test of the Localism Act will be the interpretation put on it in the courts.
The danger here is that the courts are dragged into deciding whether to overturn democratic decisions. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the point that locally based decisions can and should trump a planning policy based decision, the point that a judge is asked to decide is fundamental. Yes we have checks and balances within the system and part of that involves the judiciary, but where a council has taken a democratic vote on a matter – for a judge to overturn that on the grounds of unlawfulness is a major thing.
Of course the system has ever been thus, but in the new world of Localism, where an inspector’s decision is not binding, the legal precedence set becomes ever more important.
So when a Council like Rochdale decides that it is better to reassess the Core Strategy the implications for other councils are huge. Rochdale now aim to have a new adopted Core Strategy in place by June 2013, thereby making use of the Government’s 12 month window for local authorities to get their LDFs sorted out.
How many more Councils will we see their Core Strategies challenged by inspectors at EIP, especially when they have proposed Core Strategy’s that have been designed on political grounds to suit local sensitivities that do not tally with the planning evidence. I think it will be a brave Council that risks tax payer’s money in the high court when an inspector has declared their Core Strategy unsound.
What a brave new world we live in!