Consultation guidance notes

Pre-submission Consultation on the LDF Core Strategy – guidance notes

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These notes have been produced by No Adastral New Town (NANT). Guidance on the mechanics of submitting your application are provided here by SCDC and at the end of this document.

We appreciate that many people will be feeling ‘consultation fatigue’, having put considerable effort into their responses to earlier consultations. However, in many ways this is the most important of them all. Previous consultation responses could be (and have been) ignored by SCDC, but this time our responses will go to an independent Planning Inspector who will (hopefully) read them all and assess the points made on their merits in an open-minded and unbiased way.

This consultation is also different because it is not about whether you agree or disagree with the Core Strategy and its policies, it is about whether you think SCDC arrived at its decisions in a sound and legal way. Definitions of these terms can be found in SCDC’s guidance notes[1], and on the planning inspectorate’s website[2], but a very brief resume is given below:

Legal compliance:

  • does the Core Strategy meet the various legal requirements of the 2004 Town & County Planning Act[3] (you would have to have some legal knowledge to comment on this)
  • was the process of community involvement in general accordance with SCDC’s Statement of Community Involvement (SCI)[4]see below for advise on this.
  • were the Sustainability Appraisal and Appropriate Assessments carried out properly – see below for advise on this

Soundness:

Justified:

This means that the Core Strategy should be founded on a robust and credible evidence base involving:

  • Evidence of participation of the local community and others having a stake in the area – see below for advise on this.
  • Research/fact finding: the choices made in the plan are backed up by facts – see below for advise on this
  • The Core Strategy should also provide the most appropriate strategy when considered against reasonable alternatives – see below for advise on this

Effective:

This means the Core Strategy should be deliverable, embracing:

  • Does it provide sound infrastructure delivery planning? (e.g. roads, schools, water supply, sewage disposal, etc.)
  • Are there no regulatory or national planning barriers to delivery?
  • Are the delivery partners signed up to it?
  • Is there coherence with the strategies of neighbouring authorities? (in our case the main one being Ipswich borough Council)

Consistent with National Policy:

  • (you would have to have some knowledge of national planning policies to comment on this)

Earlier Consultation Responses

The document you are commenting on is the LDF Pre-Submission Core Strategy & Development Management Policies Development Plan Document, December 2011[5]. This is very similar to the Reviewed Core Strategy, Nov. 2010[6], so if you submitted comments on the latter they will probably still be relevant (unless SCDC acted on your comments, which is very unlikely!). The same applies to consultations on earlier versions of the Core Strategy. The Planning Inspector will not have your earlier comments, so if you want to re-use them you will have to include them in this response. You should also point out that you have already made this point previously and provide a reference, e.g. LDF Core Strategy Updated Preferred Options Consultation (Dec 2009 to Jan 2010) Response Id 1729. (It is useful if you have the response Id, but probably not essential).

Legal Compliance, Community Involvement

The Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) says, among other things: “The objectives of community involvement in the Local Development Framework process are to: …. actively encourage feedback (and respond to it)” (SCI, §7.03).

If you think SCDC have failed to live up to the above, say so. Here are some suggestions that might apply in your case:

  • SCDC failed to respond to a point you have raised in an earlier consultation
  • they responded with something totally inadequate (say why you think their response failed to address your points)
  • they misrepresented your points as ‘Comment’ when it should have been ‘Objection’ (this happened a lot)
  • public consultations were not conducted properly (e.g. inadequate or misleading information provided to the public)
  • your points got lost in the summarisation process

Soundness, Justified,  Community Involvement

“Evidence of participation of the local community”. This seems to overlap with legal compliance, above, so we suggest you just put your comments under that heading.

Soundness, Justified, based on evidence

Decisions are supposed to be based on evidence (as opposed to hearsay, prejudice, anecdotes, etc.) The evidence is supposed to objectively consider all the alternatives and be available to the decision makers before the decision is made. Of course this isn’t always possible, but when evidence appears later, the decision should be revisited when the evidence does become available.   There were lots of ‘evidence’ documents produced over the years, and these can be found here on SCDC’s website.

Here are some questions you might want to comment on under this heading:

  • Was the evidence available when a decision (that was supposed to be informed by the evidence) was made? If not, was the decision revisited when the evidence became available (if it did)?
  • Was the evidence flawed or inadequate, and did it consider all alternatives?
  • Were the conclusions based on the evidence, or did they contradicted it?

Soundness, Justified, consideration of alternatives

Decisions are supposed to be made by assessing all reasonable alternatives and then deciding which is the best, taking account of the evidence and consultation responses. This should happen in a professional, open-minded and unbiased manner. The main decisions were made by the LDF Task Group at its various meetings, and these were ratified by Cabinet and eventually by Full Council.

Here are some questions you might want to comment on under this heading:

  • Were proper procedures followed in decision making?
  • Was misleading information provided to decision makers?
  • Was there an open-minded and unbiased discussion of all the alternatives?
  • Were consultation responses and all the evidence taken into account in arriving at the decision?

Sustainability Appraisal and Appropriate Assessment

These documents form part of the LDF and are required by law. They are supposed to assess the sustainability of all the alternatives that the Core Strategy considers, and their impact on environmentally sensitive sites. They are in effect a special case of evidence documents, and our guidance for comments on them are more or less the same as those on the ‘Soundness, Justified, based on evidence’ section, above. The latest versions of both documents are dated Nov. 2011[7].

How to submit your response

You need to fill in Part A of the form once, and Part B for each ‘representation’. You should also include a summary (100 words or less) of each representation. It has not been made clear what exactly a representation is – we have interpreted it as a main topic, with usually several examples and variations within it. To create a separate representation for each separate point would mean (in NANT’s case) making over 100 representations and would be impractical. You should specify the policy you are commenting on (but this doesn’t apply to points about consultation procedures which apply to the document generally). Most of NANT supporters’ comments will be on policy SP20 (East Ipswich Plan Area), but they could be on other policies. References should be supplied to all documents quoted or referred to.

You can submit your response online but in the past we have found this very difficult. SCDC have provided a form[8], but we have found this very difficult to use. Unless you have just one representation of less than approximately 16 lines you will have to overflow to the next page. But the text box provided does not do this, so you need to insert a page break and create a new text box, but the new page appears in the wrong place so you need to do some complicated copy/pasting. And you need to repeat this each time your text overflows onto a new page! We have partially solved this in the amended blank form  Representation SCDC LDF (blank) which allows text to overflow. We have included 10 blank representations, if you need more you will have to copy/paste the Part B pages.

Alternatively you can create your own document, but it should have all the information that is on the SCDC one, i.e. Parts A and B, with the same information required by the boxes in the official form. Another method is to print the form and print Part B once for each representation, then write your comments on the printed sheets. Information on how to submit your response can be found here on SCDC’s website. The Pre-Submission Core Strategy consultation period runs from Wednesday 25 January to 5.15pm on 7 March 2012.

Completed forms can be emailed to development.policy@suffolkcoastal.gov.uk or posted to:

Development & Policy
Suffolk Coastal District Council
Melton Hill
Woodbridge
Suffolk IP12 1AU

Representations may be accompanied by a request to be notified when the document has been submitted for Examination in Public, notified of the publication of the recommendations of the Planning Inspector appointed to undertake the Examination, and/or when the document is adopted.

Any queries, please contact the Planning Policy team on01394 444761 or email development.policy@suffolkcoastal.gov.uk

References

 


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