Posted by: Adam Roake | July 6, 2010

PICKLES DECLARES OPEN SEASON ON GREEN BELT

Eric Pickles has revoked Regional Spatial Strategies. Local Authorities now have the obligation of deciding the right level of house building for their area and where that housing should be built. The only problem is that they have to work it out for themselves and, according to Steve Quartermain’s letter to LPAs, they will have to defend their decision at Examination in Public (Q.10 and 11). Since the RSSs Mr Pickles has now revoked were all examined in public and found to be sound, it seems difficult to understand why LPAs should now think it sensible to pay for the whole process again when they already know the outcome! Indeed Q.4 of Mr Quartermain’s letter suggests that when determining a planning application;

Evidence that informed the preparation of the revoked Regional Strategies may also be a material consideration, depending on the facts of the case.

Steve Quartermain’s letter to LPAs provides helpful guidance. Whilst the “Soviet tractor style top-down planning targets”  are sound (they must be because they were examined in public), LPAs can now go to the expense of a full review of their adopted policies including trying to persuade an Inspector (Q.8) that their Option 1 (Q.12) or perhaps some other lower number should now be used. Or they can simply decide they’ll stick with the Soviet style numbers. Or, although they’re not supposed to (Q.5), they can sit back and wait for the Localism Bill to be published, apparently expected now in December 2010, so that they can include its requirements in new policy without having to adopt policy now which will need to be amended later. I suspect this latter route will prove too seductive, notwithstanding Mr Quartermain’s exhortations to continue with plan making, so basically nothing will happen. Which do you think they’ll do?

In the meantime, they are still required to identify a fifteen year land supply, the first five of which must be ‘deliverable’ (Q.13, unlucky for some!). If they haven’t done this yet, and a surprising number of southern LPAs haven’t, then as the latest PPS 3 puts it, “they should consider favourably planning applications for housing”. And despite Pickles protestations that the Green Belt is safe in his hands (Q.22), we know this includes housing development in the Green Belt.

Oh and in London, it seems that the regional strategy, AKA Boris’s London Plan, is sound and will remain part of the Development Plan.  So Bromley and other boroughs without a five year supply are in the same deep trouble.

All in all it seems clear to me that Mr Pickles actions will not “end the green belt threat from soviet style targets”, as the CLG press office would have us believe. On the contrary, they will paralyse LPAs, who cannot make sensible plans at least until the Localism Bill is published, so that five year land supplies will continue not to be identified properly.  This latest announcement amounts to a declaration of Open Season on the Green Belt and more or less any other land developers think they can make a bob or two from.

Give me a call if you’ve got some land and want to know how to go about it!

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Responses

  1. Adam,

    A question rather than a comment.

    I am not a professional Planner so a question occurs to me: can anything really be regarded as a ‘material consideration’ by a LPA and the Planning Inspectorate just because a senior member of the Government says so?

    Steven Boxall
    Regeneration X

    • Good question. My understanding is that any Guidance from CLG is just that so would need to be considered by an LPA/Inspector. Note also that Steve Quartermain has worded it carefully, so he says only it “…may also be a material consideration depending on the facts of the case“.

      On balance it seems to me that if the case revolves around whether the LPA have a five year supply of land, then the evidence base that underpinned the RSS on the issue is bound to be material. It would further seem daft if the Inspector’s decision at the RSS Examination in Public was not also material.

      That said, I suspect your question will have a lot of barristers I know licking their lips!

  2. […] of emerging policy including the Localism Bill.   I’ve written before about Mr Pickles’ true indifference to protecting the Green Belt, despite Coalition rhetoric elsewhere (e.g. The Coalition: our programme for government, page 11), […]

  3. […] Remember too that the PPS3 requirement for a five year housing land supply is still present and all the indications are that a requirement for a sufficient housing land supply will transfer into the National Policy Framework. A demonstrable lack of housing land still provides sufficient justification for Mr Pickles to allow development in that holy of holies, the Green Belt. […]


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