By Nicolas Pierce
Photograph by flagstaffotos
The West Sussex vice-chair of Campaign to Protect Rural England has accused the revised National Planning Policy Framework of failing to provide the protection for local planning authorities that had been promised.
Dr Roger F Smith has highlighted that local plans, including the number of houses to be built, remain subject to scrutiny and approval by the Planning Inspectorate.
The Planning Inspectorate, an executive agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government, is responsible for the public examination of local development plans, and has the final say over whether they go ahead.
Dr Smith said: “The Planning Authority can override the wishes of a local planning authority and impose a larger target for housing development than is considered appropriate by that authority.”
He went on to cite paragraph fourteen of the NPPF, which states that development will be approved “where a development plan is absent, silent or relevant policies are out of date”.
Dr Smith suggested that the Government is being disingenuous, including this get-out clause for developers and giving local planning authorities only 12 months to update their local plans before it comes into effect.
To illustrate his point he referred to the District Planning Framework for Horsham, which is currently being prepared but is not scheduled to be ready for submission to the Planning Inspectorate until spring 2014, a full twelve months after the expiry of the deadline.
The alleged inflexibility of the framework puts local authorities like Horsham in a Catch-22 situation, according to Dr Smith, who said: “The deadline is impossible to achieve and is therefore unreasonable because it could only be achieved, if at all, by significantly reducing the time allowed for public consultation.”
Dr Smith finished: “Denial of the right either to say ‘no’ to inappropriate development or to have such development reduced is most certainly not ‘empowerment’.”
Julia Dawe, Spatial Planning Manager for Horsham District Council, denied that the council has been made impotent by the NPPF and said that the council had a collection of Local Development Framework documents at its disposal.
The LDF is a portfolio of statutory spatial planning documents which will guide development within the region.
Ms Dawe said: “Over the past year and during the implementation period we will be making progress on updating our strategy. Therefore these emerging documents will be a material consideration for any planning decision.”