Planning Inspector attaches ‘little weight’ to LDF strategy

In January there was a planning inquiry to decide an appeal by a developer against the refusal by SCDC to grant planning permission for a development close to the site of BT’s application to build 2,000 houses next to Adastral Park. The proposal was for a change of use of agricultural land to allow for storage of up to 200 caravans. The proposed site is about 200m south of the Waldringfield Road, which runs along the southern boundary of BT’s land. The Planning Inspector has now decided against the appeal. Full details can be found here.

The case itself is not directly relevant to BT’s planning application, however it did raise some issues that are. In his appeal decision, the Inspector had to consider the weight that he would give to the policies contained in the LDF compared to the ‘saved’ policies in the old Local Plan. He wrote:

“The Council’s reason for refusal refers to Policy SP20 of the DPD [Development Plan Document, in this context the LDF Core Strategy]. As the appellant points out, this includes the strategic approach for the Eastern Ipswich Plan Area, and for the Martlesham Area Action Plan. It sets out the planned direction of growth eastwards from the A12 on land immediately abutting Adastral Park. Although ‘adopted’ by the Council for the purpose of determining planning applications, this policy and the base of evidence supporting it has yet to be tested at an Examination. That it will endure without alteration cannot be guaranteed. Considering all this and the spatial nature of the matters involved, I attach little weight to it and its strategy.”

SCDC’s planning officer for the case, Chris Harden, said much the same thing at the inquiry, as did Phil Ridley (SCDC’s Head of Planning) in his report to the Cabinet meeting on 17th February, in the more general context of the LDF. NANT has been arguing this all along, but it is encouraging to get agreement from both SCDC’s Planning Department and a Planning Inspector, who of course can’t be ignored.

The relevance of this is that it undermines Phil Ridley’s case that if SCDC don’t ‘adopt’ the ‘interim planning policies’ contained in the LDF Core Strategy, and use them to test planning applications such as BT’s, there will be a planning free-for-all, with developers appealing on the grounds of non-determination. However, BT’s plans would almost certainly fail if tested against the saved policies in the Local Plan, so they are entirely dependent on considerable weight being given to the LDF. BT and other major developers are unlikely to appeal, knowing that there is a good chance the Planning Inspector will “attach little weight to [the LDF] and its strategy”.

SCDC should resolve to restrict the use of ‘interim planning policies’ to small scale, uncontroversial planning applications. Developers proposing major developments should either be prepared to have their plans tested against the saved policies in the Local Plan, or should wait until the LDF Core Strategy has been subjected to external examination.

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