Letter to SCDC Planning from Waldringfield PC

11th August 2010

Mr P Ridley
Head of Planning
Suffolk Coastal District Council

Dear Mr Ridley

I am writing on behalf of Waldringfield Parish Council to request clarification on the use of ‘interim planning policies’ to determine planning applications. We have 3 simple questions, and would very much appreciate it if you would provide answers to them:

…………………………………………………………………………

On 18th March 2010 the full council passed a resolution which said:

(ii)        That the Policies be adopted as interim planning policy for the determining of planning applications and enforcement;

This makes no attempt to distinguish between routine planning applications and large scale, controversial ones. The rejection of Cllr John Kelso’s proposed amendment (which sought to make this distinction) at the 18th March meeting emphasised this. However, in a press release dated 10th June 2010, Cllr Andy Smith said:

“It was the issue of major housing policies that generated the most public debate, and given the comments already made by the Government it is unclear how we should proceed with any such applications, and indeed how government inspectors would be able to deal with any appeals.”

And in SCDC’s Local Development Framework (LDF) Update document, dated 8th June 2010, it says:

“It is currently wholly unclear about how the major housing issue should be treated in the light of the above, … the Council has decided to print and distribute the Core Strategy, but crucially as ‘Interim Planning Policy’, rather than as the ‘Consultation Document’ for submission to the Secretary of State. That will enable its use in the large number of routine planning applications to proceed in a well structured way.”

Both these quotes seem to be saying that major housing developments are to be treated differently from routine planning applications, it being unclear how the former should be determined, whilst the latter are to be tested against the ‘interim planning policies’. Could you please confirm that this is the case, and that the resolution of 18th March (quoted above) does not now apply to major housing developments.

…………………………………………………………………………

If we have understood the change correctly we welcome it, but whilst there may have been a lack of clarity with regard to the use of ‘interim planning policies’ in June, this is no longer the case. In the Guidance for Local Planning Authorities following the revocation of Regional Strategies (6th July 2010), Steve Quartermain, Government Chief Planning Officer, says:

4. How will this affect planning applications?

In determining planning applications local planning authorities must continue to have regard to the development plan. This will now consist only of:

  • Adopted DPDs;
  • Saved policies; and
  • Any old style plans that have not lapsed

(Our emphasis. Note: DPD = Development Plan Document, in this context SCDC’s LDF Core Strategy).

We note that this list does not include un-adopted DPDs, neither does it include ‘interim planning policies’ contained in un-adopted DPDs[1]. There is no lack of clarity here – the guidance quoted above clearly excludes the use of the ‘interim planning policies’ contained in SCDC’s un-adopted LDF, for the determination of planning applications. It also says: “This guidance should be regarded as a material consideration by local planning authorities and the Planning Inspectorate in their decisions”, so SCDC does not have the option of disregarding it.

Saved policies are of course in the list, and are perfectly adequate for determining most applications, large or small.

Could you please state if you intend to conform to the Government guidance quoted above, and if you do, will you please issue a clear and unambiguous statement that SCDC will not use ‘interim planning policies’ contained in the un-adopted and un-examined LDF to determine planning applications, particularly major ones. If this is not your intention, could you please explain how you square this with the guidance quoted above.

…………………………………………………………………………

The Local Development Scheme (adopted May 2010), which has been agreed by GO-East, says:

“At the local level the District Council will prepare Development Plan Documents as part of its Local Development Framework. These will be adopted as interim planning policy for the purpose of determining planning applications and enforcement when the Council agrees that they be submitted for public examination.”

(Our emphasis)

A few weeks earlier, at the 18th March 2010 meeting the full council passed the following resolution:

(i)         That the Core Strategy as set out in Appendix 1 to report CL 03/10, including the typographical corrections circulated, be submitted for examination by an independent inspector subject to completing all relevant processes and procedures

(Our emphasis)

This hasn’t happened, largely because of the changes to national policies announced by the Secretary of State in June, and it is almost certain that it won’t now happen with the current version of the LDF. So according to the Local Development Scheme (quoted above), the ‘interim planning policies’ should never have been ‘adopted’, because the conditions for submitting the LDF for public examination, required by the full council, have not been fulfilled.

Could you please explain this conflict, and if it was simply an oversight, could you please rectify it by announcing that the ‘adoption’ of the ‘interim planning policies’ has been revoked as it is in conflict with the Government approved Local Development Scheme.

…………………………………………………………………………

Apart from these quasi-legal arguments about procedure, we believe that decisions on major housing proposals should be based on independently examined policies that local people can have confidence in, because they are known to have been arrived at by following the proper processes, in particular that the views of local people have been taken into account.

There is a high probability that the ‘interim planning policies’ will be changed, either because they are found to be unsound at the Independent Examination stage, or they do not align with new Government policies. If major planning applications are approved using these ‘interim planning policies’, and they are subsequently changed, the people of the district will be in the extremely unfortunate position of having to live for decades with inappropriate housing developments that are at odds with SCDC’s new policies and strategy. It would make a complete farce of strategic planning and the principle of plan-led development. The solution to this problem is very simple – do as most other Local Planning Authorities are doing: wait until the LDF has undergone external examination and been properly adopted before testing major planning application against the policies it contains.

Yours sincerely

Mrs Jean Potter

Clerk to the Parish Council

cc

County Councillors

Others

Rt Hon. Eric Pickles MP (Secretary of State for Communnities & Local Government)

Therese Coffey (MP for Suffolk Coastal)

Barbara Wyganowski (GO-East)

Simon Cairns (Suffolk Preservation Society)


[1] Despite SCDC’s description of the ‘interim planning policies’ as having been ‘adopted’ in the resolution of 18th March, simply calling a document or set of policies ‘adopted’ does not confer on it the status of adopted as normally understood in the planning world, i.e. having been through the external examination stage and recommended for adoption by the Independent Inspector. The 2004 Planning & Compulsory Purchase Act states:

23 Adoption of local development documents

(2) The authority may adopt a development plan document as originally prepared if the person appointed to carry out the independent examination of the document recommends that the document as originally prepared is adopted.

(3) The authority may adopt a development plan document with modifications if the person appointed to carry out the independent examination of the document recommends the modifications.

(4) The authority must not adopt a development plan document unless they do so in accordance with subsection (2) or (3).

Since neither (2) nor (3) have happened in the case of the LDF Core Strategy, it cannot be classed as adopted. And if the LDF Core Strategy hasn’t been adopted, it is meaningless to claim that the policies it contains have been adopted: simply re-branding them ‘interim planning policies’ doesn’t alter this.

Our Ref: IK/JEP/10/81

11th August 2010

Mr P Ridley

Head of Planning

Suffolk Coastal District Council

Council Offices

Melton Hill

Woodbridge

Suffolk IP12

Dear Mr Ridley

I am writing on behalf of Waldringfield Parish Council to request clarification on the use of ‘interim planning policies’ to determine planning applications. We have 3 simple questions, and would very much appreciate it if you would provide answers to them:

…………………………………………………………………………

On 18th March 2010 the full council passed a resolution which said:

(ii) That the Policies be adopted as interim planning policy for the determining of planning applications and enforcement;

This makes no attempt to distinguish between routine planning applications and large scale, controversial ones. The rejection of Cllr John Kelso’s proposed amendment (which sought to make this distinction) at the 18th March meeting emphasised this. However, in a press release dated 10th June 2010, Cllr Andy Smith said:

It was the issue of major housing policies that generated the most public debate, and given the comments already made by the Government it is unclear how we should proceed with any such applications, and indeed how government inspectors would be able to deal with any appeals.

And in SCDC’s Local Development Framework (LDF) Update document, dated 8th June 2010, it says:

“It is currently wholly unclear about how the major housing issue should be treated in the light of the above, … the Council has decided to print and distribute the Core Strategy, but crucially as ‘Interim Planning Policy’, rather than as the ‘Consultation Document’ for submission to the Secretary of State. That will enable its use in the large number of routine planning applications to proceed in a well structured way.”

Both these quotes seem to be saying that major housing developments are to be treated differently from routine planning applications, it being unclear how the former should be determined, whilst the latter are to be tested against the ‘interim planning policies’. Could you please confirm that this is the case, and that the resolution of 18th March (quoted above) does not now apply to major housing developments.

…………………………………………………………………………

If we have understood the change correctly we welcome it, but whilst there may have been a lack of clarity with regard to the use of ‘interim planning policies’ in June, this is no longer the case. In the Guidance for Local Planning Authorities following the revocation of Regional Strategies (6th July 2010), Steve Quartermain, Government Chief Planning Officer, says:

4. How will this affect planning applications?

In determining planning applications local planning authorities must continue to have regard to the development plan. This will now consist only of:

· Adopted DPDs;

· Saved policies; and

· Any old style plans that have not lapsed

(Our emphasis. Note: DPD = Development Plan Document, in this context SCDC’s LDF Core Strategy).

We note that this list does not include un-adopted DPDs, neither does it include ‘interim planning policies’ contained in un-adopted DPDs[1]. There is no lack of clarity here – the guidance quoted above clearly excludes the use of the ‘interim planning policies’ contained in SCDC’s un-adopted LDF, for the determination of planning applications. It also says: This guidance should be regarded as a material consideration by local planning authorities and the Planning Inspectorate in their decisions, so SCDC does not have the option of disregarding it.

Saved policies are of course in the list, and are perfectly adequate for determining most applications, large or small.

Could you please state if you intend to conform to the Government guidance quoted above, and if you do, will you please issue a clear and unambiguous statement that SCDC will not use ‘interim planning policies’ contained in the un-adopted and un-examined LDF to determine planning applications, particularly major ones. If this is not your intention, could you please explain how you square this with the guidance quoted above.

…………………………………………………………………………

The Local Development Scheme (adopted May 2010), which has been agreed by GO-East, says:

“At the local level the District Council will prepare Development Plan Documents as part of its Local Development Framework. These will be adopted as interim planning policy for the purpose of determining planning applications and enforcement when the Council agrees that they be submitted for public examination.”

(Our emphasis)

A few weeks earlier, at the 18th March 2010 meeting the full council passed the following resolution:

(i) That the Core Strategy as set out in Appendix 1 to report CL 03/10, including the typographical corrections circulated, be submitted for examination by an independent inspector subject to completing all relevant processes and procedures

(Our emphasis)

This hasn’t happened, largely because of the changes to national policies announced by the Secretary of State in June, and it is almost certain that it won’t now happen with the current version of the LDF. So according to the Local Development Scheme (quoted above), the ‘interim planning policies’ should never have been ‘adopted’, because the conditions for submitting the LDF for public examination, required by the full council, have not been fulfilled.

Could you please explain this conflict, and if it was simply an oversight, could you please rectify it by announcing that the ‘adoption’ of the ‘interim planning policies’ has been revoked as it is in conflict with the Government approved Local Development Scheme.

…………………………………………………………………………

Apart from these quasi-legal arguments about procedure, we believe that decisions on major housing proposals should be based on independently examined policies that local people can have confidence in, because they are known to have been arrived at by following the proper processes, in particular that the views of local people have been taken into account.

There is a high probability that the ‘interim planning policies’ will be changed, either because they are found to be unsound at the Independent Examination stage, or they do not align with new Government policies. If major planning applications are approved using these ‘interim planning policies’, and they are subsequently changed, the people of the district will be in the extremely unfortunate position of having to live for decades with inappropriate housing developments that are at odds with SCDC’s new policies and strategy. It would make a complete farce of strategic planning and the principle of plan-led development. The solution to this problem is very simple – do as most other Local Planning Authorities are doing: wait until the LDF has undergone external examination and been properly adopted before testing major planning application against the policies it contains.

Yours sincerely

Mrs Jean Potter

Clerk to the Parish Council

cc

Patricia O’Brien patricia.obrien@suffolkcoastal.gov.uk

Veronica Falconer veronica.falconer@suffolkcoastal.gov.uk

Chris Blundell chris.blundell@suffolkcoastal.gov.uk

Andy Smith andy.smith@suffolkcoastal.gov.uk

Ray Herring ray.herring@suffolkcoastal.gov.uk

John Kelso

Andrew Nunn   

Chris Slemmings   

Colin Hart   

Doreen Savage   

Mary Neale   

Marianne Fellowes   

Robert Whiting   

Mike Deacon


[1] Despite SCDC’s description of the ‘interim planning policies’ as having been ‘adopted’ in the resolution of 18th March, simply calling a document or set of policies ‘adopted’ does not confer on it the status of adopted as normally understood in the planning world, i.e. having been through the external examination stage and recommended for adoption by the Independent Inspector. The 2004 Planning & Compulsory Purchase Act states:

23 Adoption of local development documents

(2) The authority may adopt a development plan document as originally prepared if the person appointed to carry out the independent examination of the document recommends that the document as originally prepared is adopted.

(3) The authority may adopt a development plan document with modifications if the person appointed to carry out the independent examination of the document recommends the modifications.

(4) The authority must not adopt a development plan document unless they do so in accordance with subsection (2) or (3).

Since neither (2) nor (3) have happened in the case of the LDF Core Strategy, it cannot be classed as adopted. And if the LDF Core Strategy hasn’t been adopted, it is meaningless to claim that the policies it contains have been adopted: simply re-branding them ‘interim planning policies’ doesn’t alter this.

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